Facebook Accused of ClickFraud


MediaPost covered this week for some reason a case in 2009, where Facebook has been accused of not following industry standards for “legitimate” clicks. I’m not 100% sure why MediaPost is covering something almost three years old, but perhaps they just wanted to emphasize the old lawsuit in order to get some more traffic. Either way, it raises a few questions that I wondered what people in performance marketing felt about the case.

According to MediaPost, the case “assert that Facebook violates industry guidelines — including the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s 2009 recommendations — in several key ways. Among others, the service allegedly doesn’t permit independent audits or publish a description of its methodology for counting clicks.”

Basically, they are saying, without saying it, that there is a question of what a click is versus… well…what a click is. The plaintiffs, who it should be noted, are basically a law firm trying to get a case certified as a class action, claim that there is a “standard” of what a click is, and that standard should be followed by Facebook, if not everyone else.

Let’s first ignore the fact that this is probably nothing more than a money-making class-action venture, and nothing will be gained by it except making money for the lawyers. Instead, let’s address if there are really standards for clicks, and more importantly, if we care about what those standards are.

First of all, the IAB has established, basically guidelines and recommendations about what a click is. It’s not a law, let alone necessarily a standard in the industry. The IAB, while they would like to claim to represent the industry, only represents a small part of the industry and the vast majority of interactive advertising companies, especially on the performance marketing side, are not members of the IAB.

Next, the standards they define are the standards in their part of the industry, where the definition of what a click is might actually be a lot more important than the performance marketing industry, where a lot of Facebook’s advertising still comes from. I’m not going to go in-depth into these standards, but you are free to read them here.

Obviously if there is click-fraud, we should be concerned about that to some degree. You should get what you are paid for. However, since Facebook is the only person making money from the clicks, it’s a lot less likely there is click-fraud on the level of most PPC engines. If we could prove that Facebook itself was involved in Click-fraud, that would be an interesting case, but that is not what the case is about. It’s about the definition of what a click is.

Frankly, I don’t really care when it comes to Facebook, because I believe that most marketers need to find a metric to work to, that isn’t based on a click or impression to meet their goals. If a click defined by AOL is different than a click defined by Facebook, I could care less, as long as I can gauge those clicks and then calculate their value to my offer or product. Why would I care if Facebook is following some arbitrary “guidelines” about what a click is, just as long as it’s a positive ROI?

Do you honestly care? Should we care?

What's your opinion?