Facebook ‘lies, cheats, steals’ on video, claims YouTube star

Blogger slams social network for video-view stats, policies on native content, piracy

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Facebook ‘lies, cheats, steals’ on video, claims YouTube star
By  Stephen McBride Published  August 6, 2015

Facebook has been the subject of scathing criticism by a YouTube star, for its handling of video content.

Hank Green runs a video blog with his brother John, called VlogBrothers, which has around 2.6m subscribers. He was one of the three YouTube stars invited to interview US President Barack Obama earlier this year.

In a blogpost earlier this week, Green accused Facebook of deliberately inflating views of video content on its site, referring to the company's 4bn-a-day figure as a "lie". He argued that YouTube counts a posted view as viewed after just three seconds, even though videos will automatically run and stay running as a page is scrolled.

"Facebook counts the ‘view' at the three second mark (whether or not the viewer has even turned on the sound) in the midst of a precipitous decline in retention," Green wrote.  "At that moment, 90% of people scrolling the page are still ‘watching' this silent animated GIF. But by 30 seconds, when viewership actually could be claimed, only 20% are watching. 90% of people are being counted, but only 20% of people are actually ‘viewing' the video."

With headings such as "They Lie", "They Cheat" and "They Steal", Green made his views clear on the statistics, as well as venting fury on Facebook's perceived attitude towards piracy. He cited a report published online on 10 July by Ogilvy and Tubular Labs, which claims that "video rips constitute 72.5% of the top Facebook video content in the last 30 days".

Green also claimed the freebooted videos accounted for "17bn views last quarter" and declared that "Facebook's algorithms encourage this theft."

"They'll take the video down a couple days after you let them know," he wrote. "Y'know, once it's received 99.9% of the views it will ever receive."

Green also decried Facebook's practice of only allowing wide audience to see a video once the video was uploaded natively to Facebook. He claimed the number of feeds a video appeared in was considerably less if the video was embedded (hosted by another provider, such as YouTube).

Matt Pakes, product manager at Facebook, responded on Tuesday. Pakes said Facebook "absolutely [did] care about digital video creators" and said the company was working to deliver a "sustainable video ecosystem that works well for everyone".

Pakes insisted those Facebook users that tended to skip over videos would be shown less of them in their feed.

"Over years of developing and tuning News Feed, we know that clicking on a link to play video is not a great user experience, so people tend to interact slightly less with non-native video, and the posts get less engagement," Pakes wrote in a blog post. "Native video posts with auto-play tend to see better engagement, more watch time and higher view counts. It's a nuanced but important point: native videos often do better than video links, but this is because people tend to prefer watching native videos over clicking on a link and waiting for something to load."

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