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It’s Time For Facebook To Assume Responsibility

As a media juggernaut, a leading resource of news for people and an effective advertising vehicle for marketers Facebook has a corporate responsibility and a social responsibility.

BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 24: The Facebook logo is displayed at the Facebook Innovation Hub on February 24, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. The Facebook Innovation Hub is a temporary exhibition space where the company is showcasing some of its newest technologies and projects. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

 

By Doron Wesly

First, a few facts to level set the conversation:

  • I love Facebook
  • I spend too much time on Facebook
  • I love staying up to date on family and friends thanks to Facebook
  • I love advertising on Facebook (it’s effective)
  • I am amazed that 1.8 BN humans are connected via Facebook
  • I am in awe of their business growth and operational efficiency
  • I salute FB & GOOG: 75% of all NEW digital ad spend, AND  85% of all digital spend in Q1 ’16.
  • FB accounts for 43% of US digital ad revenue growth in 2016 (GOOG accounts for 60%)
  • I love being reminded of past special moments (10 year memory lane)
  • Thank you Facebook

All of that said, as a media juggernaut, a leading resource of news for people and an effective advertising vehicle for marketers Facebook has a corporate responsibility and a social responsibility. Especially when you are one of two companies that are the only ones growing. This responsibility falls into 2 basic categories: advertising and news.

ADVERTISING

Mistakes happen. Miscalculations happen. Life happens.

They happen less when there is a structured independent audit enforced and in place. It will help all FB and all of us. Audits help uncover issues. Audits promotes processes. Audits uncover the small things that you may overlook. Audits bring the best (minds) of the best to solve issues – collaboratively. Audits enable transparency which promotes trust. Audits yield innovation. Audits supports co-creation. Audits applauds collaboration. Audits reduce mistakes and identify ones more quickly.

Internal Audits was a start.

External Audits are the way forward.

Facebook has initiated the publication of a new “Metrics FYI” blog today.  On it, the company has identified several new errors – none of which impact the company’s billings directly –  including the following:

  • On one of its dashboards “one summary number showing 7-day or 28-day organic (not paid) page reach was miscalculated as a simple sum of daily reach instead of de-duplicating repeat visitors over those periods”.  ON average, de-duplication will reduce 7-day reach by -33% and 28-day reach by -55%.  The “bug” has been live since May and will be corrected in the next few weeks

  • Paid organic reach metrics will now refer to viewable impressions, which will reduce reported reach by -20% on average

  • Measurement of time spent on Instant Articles (relevant to publishers rather than to advertisers) has on average been over-reported by 7-8% since August of 2015, caused by a calculation error

  • Measurement of clicks which were intended to capture clicks from posts to apps or websites (“referrals”) have been including clicks to view photos or videos on Facebook.  30% of the measured clicks occurred on Facebook instead (although only 6% on average for the top apps who look at this data most frequently)

I implore the leadership @facebook: Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg (@sherylsandberg), Carolyn Everson (@ceverson), Daniel Slotwiner (@DanielSlotwiner) to take ownership of this and submit @facebook to full @MRC audits of relevant metrics. As a person who loves our industry, understands the power of marketing and supports it’s growth I want to ensure responsible & sustainable growth.

All marketers of Facebook, from small mom & pop shops who spend $1,000 to Fortune 500 companies who spend $100,000,000 and everyone in between deserve accountability. The video metrics & newly discovered mistakes may not effect billing – they do effect perceived and calculated effectiveness & efficiency. It is absolutely a false claim to say “The miscalculations did not impact commercial transactions between Facebook and its partners” since I know from my own return on marketing investment calculations that the mistakes directly impact my conclusions on the actual investment justification – not just for my company – but for score of fellow CMO’s investments, including my wife’s.

NEWS

According to PEW Research Center:

  • in 2004 only 12% of US Adults got their news from digital platforms.
  • in 2016 81% of US Adults get their news from digital platforms.
  • 62% of US Adults get their news from social platforms like Facebook.

That brings us to Facebook news feed. You may not (yet) call yourself a news organization.

You are.

Facebook and its news feed algorithms are just that: a news organization powered by Artificial Intelligence & editors (people).

The professionalism, reliability and public accountability of a news organization are three of its most valuable assets.

Journalists in the U.S. and E.U. have led in formulation and adoption of these standards, such codes can be found in news reporting organizations in most countries with freedom of the press.

The Society of Professional Journalists  in its Code of Ethics states:

public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.”

The Radio Television Digital News Association Code of Ethics centers on: public trust, truthfulness, fairness, integrity, independence and accountability.

While various existing codes have some differences, the common elements including the principles of: truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability According to the “Canons of Journalism” (aka code of ethics).

Over the past election cycle we have witnessed how fake news has taken over the news feeds on Facebook. This must stop.

Facebook as a defacto news organization has the responsibility, under the Radio TV Digital News Association Code of Ethics to put a mechanism in place to reduce and work towards eliminating fake news in its news feed and ensure truthfulness and integrity. This mechanism may include enhanced artificial intelligence, human editors and a filter of news organizations that adhere to the code of ethics.

Free press is a critical pillar of democracy. We must protect it. We must promote it.

Our collective future depends on it regardless of your political beliefs.

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