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Facebook divulges bugs that were giving misleading figures to advertisers

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Facebook, today divulged that it has discovered some bugs and errors in its system that have led to miscalculated numbers across some of its products. Facebook has also said that it will create a Measurement Council and introduce more third party verification — in order to fix those bugs and to provide clearer and more accurate numbers to publishers and other clients.

This news came at a time when Facebook is already suffering under allegations that it influenced the U.S. election by showing people too much “fake news”. It was being held that Facebook was flooded with a bunch of posts that led to biased opinions and get more clicks.

According to Facebook, there were bugs in four of its products, namely, Page Insights, its Video product, Instant Articles, and referrals in Analytics for Apps.

Here are the details of the bugs divulged by Facebook:

Page Insights:

Pages dashboards, which gives a summary for the 7-day or 28-day organic page reach was miscalculated as a sum of daily reach instead of de-duplicating repeat visitors over those periods. The de-duplicated 7-day summary in the overview dashboard will be 33% lower on average and 28-day will be 55% lower. Which can make a huge difference in the long run, leading publishers and advertisers to false

What could only be termed as a surprising level of irresponsibility is the fact that the bug has been live since May. Interestingly, this bug does not affect paid reach. On this, the users can continue to trust the company like in the past.

The company said,

The vast majority of reach data in the Page Insights dashboard was unaffected, including all the graphs, daily and historical reach, per-post reach, exported and API reach data, and all data on the Reach tab.

Instant Articles:

The company had been under-counting metrics for 100%, video views. The explanation given for this blunder is that sometimes the audio plays longer than the video. Facebook calculated that this may have meant up to a 35% increase in video watches at 100%.

We were calculating the average across a histogram of time spent, instead of reflecting the total time spent reading an article divided by its total views. We have now fixed this issue.

Referrals:

There was a miscalculation in Analytics for Apps by about 6% for the most frequent users. It was counting clicks that went directly to apps and websites, and wrongly counting clicks on posts via apps and websites, including clicks to view media as well.

It said that other referral measurements were unaffected.

Facebook’s correction strategy:

Here are the immediate steps that Facebook will be taking to fix these bugs:

  • It will be increasing the introduction of third third-party companies which will work on measuring traffic and engagement on its platform.The current third party companies in collaboration with Facebook are comScore, Moat, Nielsen, and Integral Ad Science (IAS).
  • It will give more responsibilities to the existing partners. For example Nielsen will be given the task to to monitor video and Facebook live content to incorporate that into their wider social media dashboard.
  • Most importantly, it will create a new Measurement Council which will include comprised of advertising clients and measurement companies in order to look at how it will continue to evolve this going forward, part of a bigger plan to communicate more about its metrics publicly.
  • This will change language it uses to describe metrics in order to make more clear calculations, more categorization and better definitions of what Facebook is measuring.

Well, Facebook did have some gaping holes in its policies and services. Amidst advertiser allegations and transparency concerns that was further compounded by fake news, Facebook really needed to address the issues it was facing. The company has now done so, however, we will have to wait and see how successful these moves turn out to be.

Despite its lack of transparency, the social media platform was being blindly trusted by users and advertisers. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Undoubtedly, the social media platform’s reputation has suffered a blow. Facebook simply can not afford to make such calculation blunders, considering its level of acceptance in the market.

Let’s hope that it does better to justify the faith advertisers and publishers place in it, in the future.

Someone who never wants to stop learning, because knowledge is something that no one can take away from you. No matter what! Hard work and knowledge is the key to success.


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