Last week, Facebook found itself under scrutiny for potentially inflating the size of its ad reach to advertisers.
According to Brien Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research Group, Facebook claimed that its ads can reach millions more young adults in the U.S. than actually live here.
Facebook’s Ads Manager claims to have a potential reach of 41 million people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 24, Wieser wrote in an investors’ note released September 5. But the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that in 2016, there were only 31 million people in that age range.
Additionally, Wieser found that Facebook claimed advertisers could reach 60 million people between the ages of 25 and 34. Again, however, the Census Bureau says there are only about 45 million U.S. residents in that age group.
Facebook tried to defend itself by saying that its reach estimates factor in location data—which could include non-residents visiting the U.S.—and age information, which is self-reported by users and may not be the same as their actual age.
“They are designed to estimate how many people in a given area are eligible to see an ad a business might run,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Tech. “They are not designed to match population or census estimates.”
But that’s not the only problem Facebook’s ad program is facing.
In 2016, Facebook admitted that it miscalculated the average time users spent watching videos and the number of completed video views.
More recently, Facebook recently reported that fake Russian accounts on the platform bought $100,000 in political ads to interfere in the 2016 election.
According to the New York Times, the ads were purchased by the Internet Research Agency, “a shadowy Russian company linked to the Kremlin,” which is known for “using ‘troll’ accounts to post on social media and comment on news websites.”
Most of the ads didn’t refer to any of the candidates, but they were about hot-button issues like race, gay rights, immigration, and gun control, according Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos. The ads ran between June 2015 and May 2017, and were connected to about 470 fake accounts and pages that the company has since shut down.
“We have shared our findings with U.S. authorities investigating these issues, and we will continue to work with them as necessary,” Stamos wrote.
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