As media companies tried to divine the desires of the world’s biggest platform, they fired writers and lost their way.
Facebook egregiously overstated the success of videos posted to its social network for years, exaggerating the time spent watching them by as much as 900 percent, a new legal filing claims. Citing 80,000 pages of internal Facebook documents, aggrieved advertisers further allege that the company knew about the problem for at least a year and did nothing.
The company denies the allegations. “This lawsuit is without merit and we’ve filed a motion to dismiss these claims of fraud. Suggestions that we in any way tried to hide this issue from our partners are false,” said a spokesman for Facebook in a statement, adding that the company notified advertisers as soon as it discovered the problem.
During the period of purported wrongdoing, July 2015 to June 2016, journalists and newsroom leaders across the country worked to cover an unprecedented presidential campaign in an information landscape that Facebook was constantly, and erratically, transforming. Even if, as Facebook argues, it did not knowingly inflate metrics, it set up new and fast-changing incentives for video that altered the online ad market as a whole. As media companies desperately tried to do what Facebook wanted, many made the disastrous decision to “pivot to video,” laying off reporters and editors by the dozen. And when views plunged and video’s poor return on investment became more apparent, some companies pivoted back, firing video producers by the dozens.