Opinion

What’s really to blame for the Russian ad scandal? Only Facebook’s insufferable arrogance

From fake accounts, overinflation of video viewing figures to the inexcusable Russian ad-buying, Facebook will say and do whatever suits their purposes – the public be damned, writes Bob Hoffman

In an all-too-familiar continuation of its sleazy practices, Facebook revealed this week that the number of fake or illegitimate accounts on the platform are about double what was previously reported.

It now says it has about 270,000,000 phoney accounts. That means the number of bogus accounts on Facebook is greater than the entire adult population of the US. Of course, this number, like all Facebook numbers, is not to be trusted.

What made the “announcement” so squalid was not the number – after all, we’ve had a decade to get used to Facebook’s bullshit numbers – it was how it was revealed. According to The Telegraph the revelation appeared “in the small print of its earnings presentation.”

Perhaps you will remember how Facebook revealed that it had overstated video viewing numbers by as much as 80 per cent. It did so by trying to sneak it by us on a post on its “Advertiser Help Centre.” Yeah, big help.

And you’ll remember earlier this year when Facebook claimed it had 65 million subscribers in the US aged 20 to 29 – almost 20 million more than the entire population of that age group.

Then there’s the question of how many people were reached on Facebook by the Russian ad buy. It was first reported as 10 million, then it climbed to 70 million, now maybe its 126 million.

Facebook got pounded in Washington this week for its inexcusable irresponsibility in the Russian advertising scandal. You see, they only had about $10 billion in revenue and $5 billion in profit in the last quarter. How can we expect an impoverished company like that to hire enough people to know what the hell they’re doing?

By my calculation, at its current rate of profitability, Facebook could hire 10,000 new people to vet its advertisers, pay them each $100,000, and still show a quarterly profit of 4.75 billion instead of 5 billion.

Facebook desperately needs grown-ups. In this great takedown, Prof. Scott Galloway asserts that the average Facebook employee is 28 years old and is devoid of the understanding of the responsibilities of a media company. Mark Zuckerberg once famously said, “Young people are just smarter.”

What do you get when you have this kind of insufferable arrogance? Nothing but trouble.

People who know the two companies well say Google actually does care about their impact on society and does try to do the right thing.

Facebook, on the other hand, are said to be nasty, juvenile, arrogant pricks who have no sense of their own odiousness and say and do whatever suits their purposes – truth and the public be damned.

Bob Hoffman has been the CEO of two independent agencies and is the author of the Ad Contrarian blog

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