Facebook Prevails In Battle With Advertiser Over Phony Accounts

Siding with Facebook, a judge has dismissed an advertiser's lawsuit over allegedly fake accounts.

In a written ruling issued Saturday, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup in the Northern District of California said the advertiser, dotStrategy, failed to show Facebook misrepresented its policies regarding phony accounts. 

The decision stems from a lawsuit brought three years ago by dotStrategy, which operates the “.buzz” domain registry and alleged that it paid Facebook around $8,000 for ad campaigns that ran between December of 2013 and May of 2018. dotStrategy alleged it was charged by Facebook for interactions with fake accounts during that time.

dotStrategy claimed Facebook violated a California law regarding unfair business practices, arguing that the company had represented that it wouldn't charge advertisers for clicks from fake accounts.

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Alsup said in his ruling that dotStrategy -- which operates the “.buzz” domain name -- paid for 55 Facebook campaigns, but that only two campaigns were purchased on a per-click or per-action basis.

Alsup wrote that there was “absolutely nothing in the record suggesting that Facebook charged plaintiff for a click by a fake account in either of these two campaigns.”

dotStrategy's other campaigns were purchased on a cost-per-impression basis. Alsup said that dotStrategy couldn't proceed with claims that Facebook violated a California law regarding misleading business practices regarding those campaigns, because Facebook had not promised that it wouldn't charge advertisers for impressions delivered to fake accounts.

Alsup suggested that he might have reached a different conclusion had dotStrategy claimed in its lawsuit that Facebook violated their contract.

“Plaintiff ... argues that although it was not charged for clicks by fake accounts, it was charged for impressions, and plaintiff did not 'bargain for' fake accounts to be shown its advertisements,” Alsup wrote. “But Facebook never represented that it would not charge for invalid impressions.”

He added: “To the extent plaintiff believes Facebook did not live up to its end of the bargain, plaintiff's claim lies in contract, not for false or misleading business practices.”

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