Facebook Deals With Some Click Fraud Problems

    June 22, 2009

Facebook is charging hard toward hitting that $550 million in revenue number that was put in front of potential investors recently. Of course, their pay per click model of advertising is going to be a critical component of getting there. It seems that there have been some troubles with click fraud for the past month or so which as TechCrunch reports, has set off some heated discussion of Facebook and its inability to tell advertisers “what’s on their mind.”

As initially reported yesterday there were click fraud complaints that up to 100% of clicks were fraudulent. While click fraud is nothing new to pay per click advertisers this was a bit different. Many Facebook advertisers were getting charged for clicks that simply never happened. In ‘traditional’ click fraud (if there is such a thing) the clicks are seen by advertisers but they are ID’d as not legitimate sources thus labeling them fraudulent. Facebook advertisers just were getting charged and there were no clicks.

While there are always problems with pay per click models it was Facebook’s apparent lack of attention given to complaints until there was recognition of the issue with TechCrunch. Many complaints were found on WickedFire and there was some heated discussion including (in which I have replaced some of the wonderful language that these folks use to communicate)

This is experienced by not just those that use 202. When in doubt, look at your raw apache logs – which I did. The result: 15% – 20% clicks never make it to my LP. Clearly a case of click-fraud going on. Tested on 3 different servers at 3 different DCs (not a network issue).

Sucks how high the numbers are today. Its clear the problem is getting worse daily. I’ve moved most of my “%$#^” off facebook for the time being and magically my %$#^ is all positive again. Crazy how that works. There are lots of places to buy traffic, some that will even actually give you the traffic you are paying for. Facebook is never going to admit to whats going on. I can almost guarantee you that.

Facebook is still reporting 20% more clicks than I actually get. This is bull$#%#. If I were at least getting bot traffic or something that would be one thing, but right now Facebook is simply stealing 20% of clicks that I paid for, which adds up to thousands of dollars. Someone should threaten legal action, this is straight up fraud on Facebook’s part.

What really got under the skin of the advertisers is the response they had received from Facebook regarding their issues.

According to the WickedFire posts, Facebook isn’t officially acknowledging the problem or giving any refunds so far. But they are asking some advertisers to send in logs to show the discrepancy. So far, advertisers who go to the trouble to do this aren’t getting the response they wanted: “I was asked to send in my logs so I spent over an hour compiling logs over the time period in question, and they replied with their &^#$ing scripted bull^%#$. I was sooo ^#$%ing pissed, since I took the time to do that and they churn out a 2 second response.”

So if you are Facebook, what should you do once this becomes something that is more than a few compaints? Well, Brandon McCormick at Facebook chimed into the comment stream over at TechCrunch with

This is Brandon on the Facebook communications team. I wanted to chime in to make sure that our voice was part of this discussion and to clarify how we are addressing this issue.

We take click quality very seriously and have a series of measures in place to detect it. We have large volumes of data to analyze click patterns and can identify suspicious activity quickly.

Over the past few days, we have seen an increase in suspicious clicks. We have identified a solution which we have already begun to implement and expect will be completely rolled out by the end of today. In addition, we are identifying impacted accounts and will ensure that advertisers are credited appropriately.

TechCrunch has published an update for this post that outlines some aggressive (but apparently not real subtle) attempts to grab some business from Facebook. As with anything in life it’s actually never about the problem. Stuff happens and in the Internet space that is even more prevalent. What is most important is how a problem is dealt with.

Had Facebook addressed these complaints differently from the start do you think the level of frustration expressed on WickedFire and elsewhere would have been as damaging? Online reputations are just like ‘traditional’ reputations (once again, if there is such a thing) in that the best way to handle any problems is quickly, head on and with transparency. Does it mean you will get a perfect solution every time? Absolutely not. It does, however, give you the best shot at making a bad situation better. So Facebook, remember that when you ask “What’s on your mind?” you have been cleaning up your side of the street.