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Company Claims 80% of Facebook Ad Clicks Are From Bots 402

pitchpipe writes "A start-up company, Limited Run, claims that 80% of its ad clicks on Facebook have been coming from bots and will be deleting their page. Their Facebook page reads: 'Hey everyone, we're going to be deleting our Facebook page in the next couple of weeks, but we wanted to explain why before we do ... We built our own analytic software. Here's what we found: on about 80% of the clicks Facebook was charging us for, JavaScript wasn't on ... The 80% of clicks we were paying for were from bots. That's correct. Bots were loading pages and driving up our advertising costs.'"
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Company Claims 80% of Facebook Ad Clicks Are From Bots

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  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:27PM (#40823119) Journal

    If you don't have javascript, you're a bot?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:30PM (#40823141)

    Ad rotator services and click-throughs are WORTHLESS.

    The internet gives you the power to directly connect with people and most companies still only understand advertising through broadcasting which is like tossing thousands of coins waiting for one to land on its edge.

    I hope they've learnt their lesson before someone actually punches their monkey.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:32PM (#40823183)

    Maybe they're bots with credit cards, who knew. Me thinks the SEC may find this interesting.

  • Cui bono? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:33PM (#40823191)

    Only Facebook would benefit.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    Evidence, or STFU please.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:39PM (#40823287) Homepage

    on about 80% of the clicks Facebook was charging us for, JavaScript wasn't on

    You (a human) wouldn't be able to click on the ads if you couldn't see them in the first place.

  • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:44PM (#40823337)


    Read their actual page on facebook linked in the summary. Only 1-2% of their traffic were of the 'no script' variety (which is actually between 5 and 10% of their legitimate traffic), the 80% is bots they couldn't find the source of.

    Now the things I'm not sure of here, is how much they were spending on advertising in the first place, and how many clicks they were getting. As part of their own writeup they say 2k/month on facebook advertising was way more than they wanted to pay for a name change. That's fair enough, but then how much were they paying? Which leads into the second point, how many clicks are we talking about here? If there are say 80 bots (or even 800) that just are always out there trolling pages, and you only get 100 hits, or 1000 hits or whatever, then sure, you're getting hit for 80% bots, but your cost has to be pretty low too. If you're getting a million hits and 800k of them are bots then there's a very serious problem, but then if you're getting a 200k legitimate page views maybe 2000 bucks a month is reasonable (depends a lot on what your business does).

    Facebook does run, and needs to run bots on its service, if part of the cost of doing business with them is paying for when the bots are hitting your page to verify that you're in compliance that's fine, just as long as facebook is up front about how often those bots should hit your page and therefore how much you're paying. On the other hand, if it's a bot farm selling services to a SEO or something then you have a very different problem.

  • by greg1104 ( 461138 ) <> on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:44PM (#40823347) Homepage

    With some Facebook bots starting at $30 [] to $50 [] to build, of course people are doing that. Facebook has bigger [] problems [] than giving a crap about this company's complaints or requests. If our SEC wasn't a toothless corporate captive, the company would already have been halted for securities abuse.

  • Re:WTF Apple?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Desler ( 1608317 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:46PM (#40823375)

    And only an idiot clicks on random image links when they are at work...

  • I don't doubt it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:47PM (#40823379)

    We use adwords from time to time and had similar experiences a few years back with the "content network".

    We analyzed our stats and even went as far as manually browse access logs. The hits we got were crap just like the sites most of the referrals came from.

    There is a huge sesspool of scum on the Internet funded by leeching off ad revenue wherever it exists.

    If companies are not on top of it and not careful about how they are spending their advertising dollars this kind of fraud could easily eat into a sizable chunk of their budgets and they might not even know it.

    Do your homework before you throw your money away.

  • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:51PM (#40823415)

    This is of course true, but one problem is that these companies largely pay for a lot of our interwebsites today, through meaningless ads for irrelevant products.

    Meaningless ads for irrelevant products, featured on pointless websites.
    Rip it all out, and nothing of value would be lost.

    Fuck ads and fuck any person, company, industry, etc. that relies on them.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:51PM (#40823421)

    Since the ads require Javascript to be visible, yes. If you don't believe me just disable Javascript on Facebook and watch as all the ads disappear until you re-enable it.

    So, that's a feature, right?

  • OMG!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:52PM (#40823429)

    The 80% of clicks we were paying for were from bots. That's correct. Bots were loading pages and driving up our advertising costs.

    Advertising on the Internet is based on click-fraud. Where have you been for the last 10 years?

  • Follow The Money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Crypto Gnome ( 651401 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:54PM (#40823443) Homepage Journal
    Who profits from BOTS pumping the FACEBOOK advertising system?

    In practice it will be effectively impossible to identify the person-or-company who is *originally* responsible for this clickvertising pumping scheme.

    But I know who I'd be betting on.
  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:02PM (#40823529) Homepage Journal

    why would it be impossible?

    A court-issued search warrant is all you need. Seize and look through Facebook server logs.

  • Lack of Analytics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:04PM (#40823555) Homepage
    However much truth there is in this story, there's one notable thing about Facebook's advertising. It's that they don't- or at least didn't the last time I looked into it (late 2011 IIRC)- provide any proper tracking or analytics service that you can easily integrate into your own website. Yes, they'd tell you how many clicks you got on your Facebook page, but so what?

    IIRC apparently they'd had some analytics/tracking code available at one point but *supposedly* they were worried about the data it provided being misinterpreted, so they withdrew it. They were still providing it, but only to their large corporate customers. Hmm.

    One could still use specialised third-party tracking solutions, but (e.g.) getting it to work properly with Google analytics proved more complicated than it might at first have appeared, involving faffing about with funnels and the like (which I still don't think I got working properly, as I was distracted by more important things shortly afterwards).

    Given that this was around the time stories were starting to come out explaining how Facebook- which everyone had assumed would be the holy grail of targeted advertising- was in truth delivering very poor results for advertisers, a cynic might assume that it really wasn't in Facebook's interest to make keeping close tabs on the effectiveness of its advertising easy for customers. This might or might not have been the case, but I'm pretty sceptical.
  • Re:Or, You Know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Desler ( 1608317 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:08PM (#40823599)

    Sure you could, but you are part of a small minority of users. A far cry from the 80% they are seeing.

  • by rgbrenner ( 317308 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:15PM (#40823663)

    I've advertised on quite a few platforms (although have yet to try Facebook), and this is a common problem. In 2006, there were lawsuits against Yahoo and Google for click-fraud.. both were settled (I was included in the settlement for both.... got virtually nothing.. something like $20 refund for $100k in clicks.) []

    Google does a pretty good job, which is probably a large reason why they control such a large portion of the online ad market. Yahoo, depending on their platform of the week, can be hit-or-miss. They usually do a good job, but there have been a few times when it is just terrible. When Yahoo announces a change to their search.. watch out. (Bing's ad performance has been pretty good over the past couple of years at least)

    I've seen some ad platforms that just ignore the problem, and it's easy to spend several thousand dollars and not get a single customer from it on those platforms. If facebook does nothing to control the problem, I'm sure there will be another class action.. probably won't cost them much to settle it, but might destroy the trust they have with advertisers, their stock price, and business.

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:39PM (#40824297)

    What happens when an antivirus scanner "pre-scans" the page at link to the Ad, in case the user clicks on it, in order to speed up their browsing experience?

    Technically, it's not a bot causing the page to be requested, it can just as well be a real person's user agent

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Monday July 30, 2012 @08:41PM (#40824307)

    You (a human) wouldn't be able to click on the ads if you couldn't see them in the first place.

    What about Humans running NoSCRIPT with Facebook on a scripting whitelist, but not the target site the ad directs to?

  • by pluther ( 647209 ) <pluther@us a . net> on Monday July 30, 2012 @09:17PM (#40824487) Homepage
    It's unlikely that that's the configuration used by 80% of Facebook users.
  • 80%? you are gonna honestly claim that 80% of the visitors to a single site had that exact highly unlikely set of circumstances? I'm sorry but that just don't jive, I don't care how damned geeky the FB page was. Hell ask /. how many of their users have JavaScript disabled, this site is geek city and I seriously doubt you'd get even 45% with no JavaScript at all.

    And don't forget they were being charged for AD clicks which most folks that are running some kind of blocker are running ABP and aren't whitelisting shit, hence why you have sites that say "Please, we need the money, please whitelist us" because the default behavior (which all here know most users stick with defaults) is block everything and you have to actually go out of your way to change that.

    No something smells here folks, and I only hope that company makes the software they developed to find this out free and available for others to use so we can see how widespread this really is on FB. Be a nasty bit of new to FB stockholders if it turned out 80% of their "revenues" were just clickjacking bots.

  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @12:08AM (#40825327) Homepage Journal

    Sorry, no. What percentage of real users do you imagine even knows there's an option to turn off javascript?

  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @12:09AM (#40825333) Homepage Journal

    So there's a contingent of noscript users who click on ads now?

  • Re:WTF Apple?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by azalin ( 67640 ) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @04:12AM (#40826177)
    I always considered goatse, tubgirl and lemonparty to be some kind of initiation rite. Once you learned NOT to click on any link presented (or to deal with the consequences) you were considered a member of the internet and not just a tourist anymore.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson