back to article Facebook flat-out 'lies' about how many people can see its ads – lawsuit

Facebook brags it has a massive real audience, estimated to be about 2.23bn monthly users and 1.47bn daily users after culling more than 1.27bn fake accounts. However, the social networking giant's math is being challenged in a lawsuit that claims this reach is exaggerated, thereby defrauding advertisers. In other words, it …

  1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    The suit is without merit, says Facebook.

    And eleven billion people want to file amicus curiae briefs in support of them.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: The suit is without merit, says Facebook.

      Along with millions of cats, dogs, canaries, cars, snakes and fishbowls.

      1. onefang Silver badge

        Re: The suit is without merit, says Facebook.

        You left out sperm whales and bowls of petunias.

        1. JLV Silver badge

          Re: The suit is without merit, says Facebook.

          and multiple Tinder accounts from identical IPs. A good deal of which are conveniently 25 to 34.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook is a Fraud

    More uncomfortable revelations for Zuck now that FB costs are going up and the shares took a hit. Expect more workers to squeal about 'the cult' and its real activities. Doesn't help users though, as its a win for Google.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Facebook is a Fraud

      "Doesn't help users though, as its a win for Google." - so you think Google's numbers are accurate? Face it, Internet advertising is all about lying about the numbers ... which is not that surprising because advertising is mostly lying these days anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        'so you think Google's numbers are accurate?'

        No what I meant was Facebook's dodgy practices are particularly under the microscope right now, arguably more than Google at the moment... So this heavily plays into Google's hands: "This whole Facebook debacle is very good for Google,” said Ari Paparo, a former Googler who runs ad tech firm Beeswax."

        https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-06/facebook-s-data-crackdown-has-two-winners-facebook-and-google

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is another easy win for Facebook

    All they need to do in court is show the vast amount of shadow profiles along with their count of regular users.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

      It will be very interesting to see how FB defend claiming that their adverts reach more users in Chicago than there are people in Chicago.

      That's a rather strange statistic.

      1. Waseem Alkurdi
        Thumb Up

        Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

        I've reached the same result for Jordan, while experimenting with our family business page. The figures seem to claim an estimated reach of more people in Jordan than there are people in Jordan. Funny, innit?

        And I thought that it was some "error" ...

        1. Public Citizen

          Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

          It's only an "error" when the public tumbles to the Con.

          As long as the punters keep buying the PR Propaganda without doing any independent research and verification the game is on.

      2. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

        Chicago's used to that sort of thing... there used to be more election votes cast than there was people in Chicago.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge
          Pirate

          Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

          So instead of a "graveyard vote" we now have "graveyard users"? They're alive!!!! Alive I tell you!!!!

          Icon: Closest thing to a walking dead I could find.

          1. 404 Silver badge

            Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

            I wonder what kind of connection the graveyard users have? Getting dug up every few years would kinda suck for upgrades... No 5G for you if you died last year... depending on your will and contract with graveyard. Then you have to make sure you actually *get* the upgrades...

            What a bitch. Easier not to die.

            1. onefang Silver badge

              Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

              "What a bitch. Easier not to die."

              Yeah, that'll be my preference to.

          2. soulrideruk Bronze badge

            So instead of a "graveyard vote" we now have "graveyard users"?

            I am pretty sure all those 'deleted' facebook accounts are included in those numbers.

            Very Zombie like.

      3. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

        Maybe the daytime population of Chicago is higher than the number of people who live there? For example, population of Westminster is about 230,000, daytime population is about 1m.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

          And what about multiple accounts for each actual human?

          1. Def Silver badge

            Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

            And what about multiple accounts for each actual human?

            I find that less likely than Facebook counting each *device* individually. I have at least four different devices that I use depending on where I am and what I'm doing.

        2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

          "Maybe the daytime population of Chicago is higher than the number of people who live there? For example, population of Westminster is about 230,000, daytime population is about 1m."

          But most of them are zombies.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

        "more users in Chicago than there are people in Chicago." A new verse for an old song...

        I used to work in Chicago, In a Facebook store, I worked in the advertising department, I did, but I don't anymore...

        1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

          Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

          I used to work in Chicago, In a Department Store, Facebook said we had 14,958 visitors, But I saw only Four, The management said I was lying, The advertising budget was flying, I don't work there anymore...

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

            "The management said I was lying."

            Then I'd have challenged it with surveillance footage, in the presence of a policeman so that any challenge to what the cameras display can be countered with legal threats (falsifying legal records etc.).

    2. Mr Dogshit
      Joke

      Re: This is another easy win for Facebook

      Facebook "does not create 'Shadow' Profiles of people who aren't Facebook users".

      They said so themselves in their reply to my GDPR request.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All social media is bollocks

    And Advertisers are cunts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'And Advertisers are cunts'

      Don't forget the investors, they got hugely rich out of all of this.

      Especially 'Palantir Peter' Thiel, who has special data access...

      So Palantir can suck up Facebook profiles with Zuk's blessing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 'Palantir Peter' Thiel,

        Is that Palantir Peter the same Peter as PayPal Peter?

        https://www.forbes.com/profile/peter-thiel/

        https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2018-palantir-peter-thiel/

        https://theintercept.com/2017/02/22/how-peter-thiels-palantir-helped-the-nsa-spy-on-the-whole-world/

        Small world, innit. With big big money for a very lucky few.

        What could possibly go wrong?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have often wondered

    what crypto currency miners actually do. No one really knows. Seems they could be actually creating FB users and clicking on ads in the largest fraud scheme ever seen. Go ahead, tell me how that isn't possible.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: I have often wondered

      Miners aren't doing that.

      But you can be certain that billions of bots are.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I have often wondered

        You make my point by attempting to appear definitive about what mining software does or does not do. The fact most likely is, you have no specific knowledge of precisely what "mining" software actually does when it is running on a machine. Those of us that have researched it understand what we are told it does, but unless you are intimately familiar with the source code at the deepest levels possible and constantly monitor exactly what that software is doing on a machine 8.64e+10 microseconds a day, 365 days a year, one can only spout the original bullocks of what they told you it does.

        Further, do you actually think that software heavily used by criminals has no possible deceit in it?Seriously? I am not talking general Blockchain tech here. I am talking the miner software that people download from sites hosted, um, anywhere, to run to make money. The stone cold reality is you don't really know what that software does and that could include a wide variety of things of which Facebook bots are merely one. All communications in and out are encrypted, aren't they? You can't even sniff the wire to see what it is. Once it is installed, all you can see is that one or more processes are running, CPU is pegged or at the level set by the user, and memory is being used and the assumption is that software used by crooks is doing what they said on the website where it came from. The actual, full stop, hard core, in-your-face reality is only the code originators know what that "mining" software actually does. And even THAT attempt at a definitive statement has vagaries. Someone with good intentions may have written the original code and it could have been co-opted with a few add-ons to make real money scamming stocks or the ad industry or even breaking government crypto keys for fun and profit .

        Just think of those millions of morons that let a complete stranger use their machines and all the scammers have to do is throw a few pennies in an electronic wallet every couple of days for the brain-frothed user that suspends all reason because they think they're going to get rich.

        Manipulation on this scale must be a wet dream for the nefarious mind.

        1. soulrideruk Bronze badge

          Re: I have often wondered

          Mining software is open source so it is very easy to know what is happening in the mining, that is why no-one goes into detail telling you why your idea is ridiculous.

          To see for yourself this is not what is happening, have a look through some open source miner code:

          https://github.com/JayDDee/cpuminer-opt

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I have often wondered

            Bravo ! My ridiculous suspicions have been assailed and destroyed. One miner repo on github represents all the possible criminal minds and activities on the planet related to the topic. You have slung your pebble and Goliath has fallen.

            No one would ever think of creating an installer than includes more than just the mining software. Or, insert their own code into the mining code, or update it with other packages after it has been installed. Especially not the criminally minded from countries where they can't be found or prosecuted.

            Somehow, I think the claim that valid concerns are ridiculous emanating from someone with a vested interest in the success of this environment is a little, how you say, ridiculous.

        2. quxinot

          Re: I have often wondered

          >The stone cold reality is you don't really know what that software does and that could include a wide variety of things of which Facebook bots are merely one.<

          Frankly, the mining software is less of a concern to me than the actual OS itself (from certain vendors--desktop and mobile). If you're untrusting at the level of worrying about the mining code, step back and look at most of the black boxes that you have running on a given device.

          There's exceptions, but I'd wager that the mining software is less of a sketchy enterprise than the OS, for the majority of users.

  6. Alan Sharkey

    And, of course....

    The also OUGHT to take note of all those users who have ad blockers and don't see any adverts (it's quite pleasant in an ad free cyber world)

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: And, of course....

      Until you start hitting ad walls you can't see to pass...

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: And, of course....

        You make that sound like a problem.

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: And, of course....

        When I hit those walls, I just give up on the site.

        If they are that reliant on forcing ad revenue, they're a squatter or clickbait and I'm not interested anyway.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: And, of course....

          And if they hold exclusive content you need, such as a driver for an obscure piece of hardware (speak from firsthand experience--the alternative is to shell out for replacement hardware, so there's a real cost involved here)?

          1. Alan Sharkey

            Re: And, of course....

            Just turn off blocking for that site while you get what you need.

          2. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: And, of course....

            I've not run into that yet.

            I guess that's what private browsing mode is for.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: And, of course....

              Didn't work. Something leaked outside the private mode, probably some server-side tracking. After I discovered deleted cookies resurrecting (complete with pre-existing data), I learned how useless any kind of privacy-based system is these days. If they want to track you, they'll track you in spite of God, Man, or the Devil, and yes they'll track you even if you're anonymous. They'll just use what they do know to de-anonymize you later (Facebook is notorious for this AND defeating ad- and tracker-blockers).

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: And, of course....

                Facebook Purity is an add on for firefox which several people attest works well.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And, of course....

          I just spend a few moments adding the Advert hosts to the HOSTS file.

          No adblocker needed, the site works fine but with no adverts.

      3. TheVogon Silver badge

        Re: And, of course....

        "Until you start hitting ad walls you can't see to pass..."

        Just turn on your ad blocker's blocker blocker! Or right click and select block element.

  7. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Percentages

    ..approximately 4 times (400 per cent) higher..

    I hope the lawyer's legal skills are better than their maths skills.

    1. pleb

      Re: Percentages

      This is why I hate the use of percentages in contexts where the increase is above a two figure percentage. And yet, the lure of 'big number' is almost always too great for journalists to resist.

    2. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Percentages

      I hope the lawyer's legal skills are better than their maths skills.

      Why is that?

      400/100 * x = 4x

      I could understand if he had of said:

      ...4 times (400 per cent more) higher...

      as the "more" in 400 per cent would imply an addition to the original number:

      400/100 * x + x = 5x

      But then I guess it also depends on how you parse 4 times higher, in that do they mean:

      4 * x

      or

      4 * x + x

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing new in the ad game

    Advertisers have been doing this for a very, very long time. Ever wonder why Darrin was the moral compass on Bewitched? It was part of the game of showing ad agencies as honest and was repeated in many shows from the 1950s on. I had a ad agency tell a fortune 500 company's web services department that their million dollar ad increased the hits to the web site by an insane amount but the web logs showed a much lower improvement. The million dollar ad was to put the domain name on the bottom of existing tv ads. I suspect they are still getting paid for that (likely based on their numbers) decades latter. There is an Aussie tv show called "Gruen Transfer" where two very good ad men honestly describe what goes on with real ads.

  9. Davisch

    Read the contract

    I have nothing good to say about FB but my first impression is that this suit probably won't anywhere.

    The key is in the word 'reach' , in the Chicago example I bet the contract doesn't specify Chicago or environs. People living in Alaska/Mongolia etc. who are FB 'friends' of someone in Chicago are part of the advert's 'reach'.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not just Facebook

    Many of my comments on the El Reg forums get more downvotes then there are commentards.

    I demand an investigation!

  11. croc

    Zuckerberg for President!!! After all, "they trust me. Dumb fucks"

  12. ecofeco Silver badge

    Oldest game in the advertising book

    Audience numbers are ALWAYS bullshit.

  13. sitta_europea

    Last year I met an old school friend. I hadn't seen her for more than 50 years.

    I asked here what she'd been doing. To protect her I won't say where she had worked, but it was in sales, in a nationally very well-known organization in Great Britain.

    "They pay you just to lie.", she said. So that's what she did.

  14. WibbleMe

    Well there are a lot of things I don't like about face book but one of the good things I can say about them as a marketer that has done a lot of online advertising is that the click trough on a advert does seem to be more human, rather than "fake bot clicks" that plague the industry and cost business a lot of money that you might get on "market leading search engines", how do I know well I we use software that track real time mouse movements across a website, and well its quite obvious when its a human.

    I wonder why there has never been an investigation into that.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Why would anyone care about thieves defrauding thieves ?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbAAVLcMzr4

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    4 times the population, that's a poor deal. I got a much better offer of 60,000 in my town of 2,500!

  16. Dunstan Vavasour

    Ad Contrarian

    Well I've been following the Ad Contrarian blog for several years, and he has been calling out the fraud in online advertising for all that time.

    The root cause is that the only source of metrics available is from the ad brokers themselves, so nobody is independently auditing the page impressions and click-throughs. And nobody dare say that the emperor's naked, and that the funding model for half the internet is based on fraudulent counting.

    http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/

  17. MadocOwain

    Facebook and their lying bots

    I stopped paid advertising with them after finding 8 of 10 shares of a boosted post were from bots - users with a single friend kinda tipped it off - and the number of people reached was over 50K, but not a single customer reported seeing the ad. Google AdWords seems to be the way to go these days.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Facebook and their lying bots

      "but not a single customer reported seeing the ad"

      Ah, but that's the clever thing, you see. They don't need to remember in order to be influenced. It's a Jedi thing, I think. For example, I can't remember any of the ads I've seen at any point in the last decade, but they've all been devilishly effective in twisting my purchasing choices, so it was money well spent.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half" - John Wanamaker (1838-1922), founder of Macy's

  19. Velv Silver badge
    Gimp

    The irony of Advertisers complaining about someone massaging the figures is just delicious.

  20. polanve

    yes

    It happened to me. Almost no real people see your ad. Its all fake.

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