Moon of Alabama — Sept 7, 2017
A typically political and business strategy to lessen public attention of an evolving scandal is to launch a diversion campaign. A well designed counter campaign makes sensational claims about an unrelated issue. It is intended to take the media attention away from the real issue. Any decent public relation department will have several “canned” campaigns ready to launch on a moment’s notice.
Yesterday a new report proved (again) that Facebook cheats with its advertisement reach data. This explains why advertisements booked on Facebook have much less impact than Facebook claims and the paying customers assume.
Only hours later the company launched a diversion campaign. Its purpose is to keep the media off the real scandal. The diversion claim, presented without evidence, is that a “Russian operation” bought influencing advertisements on Facebook aimed at the U.S. public.
Here is the real scandal that Facebook tries to cover up. Facebook advertisement sales are based on systematically falsified data:
Pivotal Research Group senior analyst Brian Wieser pointed out a large discrepancy between U.S. census data and the potential reach that the social network promises advertisers.
On Tuesday, Wieser issued a note pointing out that Facebook’s Adverts Manager tool promises a potential reach of 41 million 18-24 year-olds in the U.S., while recent census data said there only 31 million people living in the U.S. within that age range.
Similar false claims are made by Facebook for other countries and categories:
For advertisers trying to target Facebook users in the U.K., the company promises it could potentially reach 5.8 million 20-24 year-olds, 6.4 million 25-29 year-olds, and 5.2 million 30-34-year-olds. When the last census was conducted in 2011, the U.K. only had 4.3 million 20-24 year-olds, 4.3 million 25-29 year-olds, and 4.1 million 30-34-year-olds.
The Fortune write up of the Pivotal/Wieser report notes other known “discrepancies” in Facebook metrics:
Last year [Facebook] had to apologize for artificially inflating the average amount of time it claimed users spent watching videos on its platform
[I]n May, it again admitted to a miscategorization of clicks that led to some advertisers paying more than they should have. This was its tenth such mistake in a year.
Facebook makes enormous profits by claiming to know the users who use its “free services” and by selling this information in form of advertisement space. But most of the data sniffed off its users is useless junk and Facebook‘s claims of advertising precision, reach and impact are false.
The Facebook diversion is designed to take away media attention from its fraudulent ad-sales by attaching to partisan strive:
Facebook Inc said on Wednesday it had found that an operation likely based in Russia spent $100,000 on thousands of U.S. ads promoting divisive social and political messages in a two-year-period through May.
Another $50,000 was spent on 2,200 “potentially politically related” ads, likely by Russians, Facebook said.
The usual “Russia hacked and influenced the election” idiots on the Democratic side of the aisles jumped onto this statement:
Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called the Facebook report “deeply disturbing and yet fully consistent with the unclassified assessment of the intelligence community.”
How $100,000 of unspecific advertisement would influence an election in which more than $1 billion was spent on political ads is unexplained. Moreover – there is zero evidence in the Facebook statement of any influence intent or effect or even a connection with something Russian:
[W]e have found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017 — associated with roughly 3,000 ads — that was connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.
In this latest review, we also looked for ads that might have originated in Russia — even those with very weak signals of a connection and not associated with any known organized effort. This was a broad search, including, for instance, ads bought from accounts with US IP addresses but with the language set to Russian — even though they didn’t necessarily violate any policy or law. In this part of our review, we found approximately $50,000 in potentially politically related ad spending on roughly 2,200 ads.
Unspecific, “potentially politically related”, un-targeted ads bought by some people in the U.S. with a language setting of “Russian”. I wonder how many of these ads were sexual service offers from “Natasha”.
Facebook declined to release the ads themselves, …
There is nothing to the Facebook Russia allegations. But the release of this nonsense nicely drowns out the real scandal:
Facebook fraudulently sells advertisement by falsely claiming precision, reach and impact for those ads that they do not have, nor ever can have.