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Did Facebook Inflate Its Advertising Metrics

Published by Slashdot on Sat, 20 Feb 2021

Business Insider reports:Facebook executives knew for years its "potential reach" advertising metric was inflated and overruled an employee warning to adjust it to avoid a revenue hit, plaintiffs of a lawsuit against the social media giant argued in an unredacted court filing. Gizmodo writes:In a nutshell, this class action suit, which was first filed back in 2018, alleges that Facebook massaged figures for "Potential Reach"an estimate that Facebook gives its advertisers for the number of people that might see their adto goad advertisers into spending more money on the platform, all in the hopes of reaching the people that Facebook had promised. These filings detail that some of Facebook's top brass, including Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, were fully aware that the company spent years exaggerating the number of eyeballs its advertisers could reach... Thanks to these unsealed filings, we know just how inflated some of those figures were. Here's an example: in 2018, Facebook told its advertisers that it had a Potential Reach of 230 million adults across the U.S., out of the 250 million adults that were counted by U.S. census data that year. But according to a 2018 Pew Research study, only about 68% (or 170 million adults) actually use the platform at all. Sandberg acknowledged in an internal email that "she'd known about problems with Potential Reach for years." But she repeatedly shot down employee's attempts to rectify those figures, according to the filing. Internally, employees acknowledged that while the product bills itself as an estimate for how many "people" your ad might reach, it is, at best, an estimate for the number of accountsincluding the untold numbers of fakes and duplicates. Some employees even ran the numbers in 2018, just to see what would happen if known duplicate accounts were cut out of Potential Reach, and saw a 10% drop in the numbers advertisers were given. Facebook chose not to cut them... The suit points out that numbers Facebook continues to give its advertisers make even less sense, like telling them it can reach "100 million" 18-to-34 year old's across the country. Census data shows there's in fact only 76 million of themand we know not all of them use Facebook.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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