Facebook has found itself back behind the dock over accusations that it over-inflated its ad view statistics by as much as 900% in order to entice advertisers to part with their cash.
A legal-filing brought against the social network by a group of small advertisers contends that Facebook knowingly falsified its average viewership statistics for over a year as a means of duping advertisers into signing up for video ads in the false belief that more members were viewing them than was actually the case.
Facebook is accused of sitting on its hands from January 2015, when it first became aware of discrepancies in its video-ad metrics, for over a year without taking any corrective action, an "unethical, unscrupulous" act likened to fraud by the lawsuit. Furthermore, its activity was described as ‘likely to deceive’ advertisers.
In the filing, brought before the US district court in Oakland the claimants write: “If Facebook had immediately corrected its miscalculation in a straightforward manner, advertisers would have seen a sudden and precipitous drop in their viewership metrics. They also would have seen that they had spent considerable money on past advertising campaigns that were not enjoying anywhere near the average viewership that Facebook had represented.”
Facebook categorically denies any wrongdoing however and has filed a court motion to dismiss allegations of fraud. It countered: “Suggestions that we in any way tried to hide this issue from our partners are false,” the company said in a statement. “We told our customers about the error when we discovered it — and updated our help center to explain the issue."
The case has been brought as an extension of an ongoing 2016 lawsuit after fresh internal documents were obtained as part of that court process, bolstering the case of those behind the legal bid.
Facebook has separately signed up to the Internet Advertising Bureau's gold standard initiative to reduce ad fraud.