Meta Platforms is renewing a push to prevent advertisers from proceeding with a class-action fraud lawsuit over allegedly inflated ad metrics.
In new papers filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Meta argues that the dispute is “ill-suited” to class-action treatment, given that the platform's advertisers were shown different estimates about the possible reach of their ads.
“By plaintiffs’ own measure, there is a five-fold range of alleged inflation in the potential reach estimates,” the company writes in papers that were unsealed this week. “A fraud class where over three million members have seen dramatically different representations simply cannot be tried through common evidence.”
Meta's new papers come in a legal battle dating to August 2018, when business owner Danielle Singer alleged in a class-action complaint that Facebook induced advertisers to purchase more ads, and pay more for them, by overstating the number of users who might see the ads. (Singer later dropped out of the litigation, and DZ Reserve, which operated an e-commerce store, and Max Martialis, which sold weapons accessories, became the lead plaintiffs.)
The complaint drew on reports by outside groups including the Video Advertising Bureau, which said in 2017 that Facebook's estimates of audience reach in every U.S. state were higher than the states' populations.
Meta urged U.S. District Court Judge James Donato in San Francisco to deny class-action status to the advertisers, arguing that they don't have enough in common with each other to warrant class-action status.
Donato rejected Meta's argument and allowed DZ Reserve and Max Martialis to proceed could proceed on behalf of all U.S. advertisers who used Facebook's Ad Manager or Power Editor to purchase ads on Facebook or Instagram after August 15, 2014.
Meta recently appealed that ruling to the 9th Circuit, arguing that the class certified by Donato covers millions of differently situated advertisers, ranging from “sole proprietors to multinational corporations to governments.”
If the 9th Circuit sides with Meta and rules that class-action status isn't appropriate, the advertisers could still proceed individually, but doing so is often prohibitively expensive.
The industry group Digital Content Next weighed in against Meta, writing in a friend-of-the-court brief that Facebook's potential reach metric “is a fundamental metric that is material to every advertising purchase.”
The organization added that inflation of that metric “distorts advertising markets to the detriment of advertisers and publishers.”
Letting a class-action move forward will “allow the full and transparent adjudication of these important issues,” Digital Content Next said.
But Meta says in its new papers that the representations shown to advertisers “are simply too different to be adjudicated together.”
“There is no way to collectively adjudicate the unique mix of information seen by each advertiser,” the company contends.