Advertiser Sues Facebook Over 'Stealth' Clicks

A Minneapolis resident who advertises his hoverboard business on Facebook alleges in a new lawsuit that the company's system of pre-fetching mobile content results in charges for ads that users did not click on.

"Through a practice of counting its own pre-fetch clicks as 'clicks,' Facebook has systematically inflated its charges ... and systematically inflated the data metrics it reports to advertisers about how many times Facebook users have engaged their ads," Tony Kramer alleges in a class-action complaint filed late last week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Kramer says he ran a cost-per-click campaign for his company, Hoversafe, in November 2016. He alleges that Facebook charged him for clicks that "were autonomously initiated by Facebook's Mobile App itself."

Kramer refers to those app-generated clicks as "stealth clicks." He alleges that he was charged for a total of 135 clicks, "including, per Facebook’s practice, stealth clicks."



It wasn't immediately clear why Kramer believes he was charged for pre-fetched clicks. He also doesn't specify how many clicks he believes he was wrongly charged for. Instead, he alleges that Facebook alone has that data.

"Without access to Facebook’s back-end technology through discovery, it is impossible for plaintiff to understand precisely why, how, and when Facebook counts and charges for stealth clicks," the complaint says.

His lawsuit accuses Facebook of violating its contract with advertisers, and engaging in unfair conduct, among other claims.

Facebook began pre-loading mobile content two years ago, in order to speed users' experience when viewing material in Facebook's in-app browser.

The company says in its advertiser help center that prefetching "may cause an apparent increase in web traffic and an increase in clicks for third-party, tag-based measurement solutions."

But Facebook also explains in its help page how to distinguish between pre-fetched clicks and "normal" clicks.

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