I'm more than a little annoyed at the circumspection with which Facebook is being treated after acknowledging its fourth 'mistake' concerning viewer metrics in as many months.
On Friday, Facebook revealed faulty metrics with Instant Articles, its mobile publishing system, the fourth disclosure of a measurement error since September. The admission sharpened calls for more independent organizations to monitor the performance of digital advertising. And some large firms that buy a lot of ads said they will more closely scrutinize their spending on the social networking giant and could shift marketing dollars elsewhere.
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In September, Facebook shared its first measurement error: inflated viewership numbers for its video ads, a relatively new product. Two months later, the company disclosed additional metric errors along with new tools for third-party measurement companies, including ComScore and Nielsen, to track its system more closely.
Problems persisted. Earlier this month, a report in Marketing Land, an industry publication, spotted a discrepancy between Facebook's internal metrics on how articles where shared and public measurements. Facebook confirmed the error. "That shouldn't happen," said Brian Wieser, senior analyst, Pivotal Research Group. "If anyone was concerned that Facebook's self-audit was not sufficient enough, they just proved it."
There's more at the link.
If I were a major advertiser using Facebook, and heard of the fourth major error in as many months - all of them in Facebook's favor, allowing it to charge me more for my advertisements than their viewership and/or penetration actually warranted - I'd be demanding a very, very large refund. If I didn't get it, I'd be talking to my lawyers. Ian Fleming used an old military truism to put words in his character Auric Goldfinger's mouth: "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action." Well, Facebook has now announced its fourth mistake - and all four helped it to charge higher advertising rates than its actual metrics warranted. If that's not a deliberate pattern of lying and/or deception, what is?
I've written before about Facebook's monumental threat to individual privacy. We've seen it censor free speech in its news feeds and elsewhere. Now there's this. What's next?
Frankly, the sooner Facebook goes the way of the dodo, the better, in my opinion.