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How Facebook is rigged to steal billions of video views from creators

Facebook profits as content creators struggle, making YouTube the clear preferred network for posting videos. But how is FB stealing billions of views?

growth hacking

growth hacking

Facebook is stealing video views

That little ‘F’ in the ubiquitous blue and white logo might as well stand for freebooting, the content-theft strategy that has helped push Facebook to new heights in video-consumption. Facebook has even begun to rival-or even supplant- Youtube as the internet’s primary video hub, although that has largely been accomplished through a broken system that encourages piracy and robs original creators of credit and ad revenue.

There’s little doubt that Facebook has strong numbers: ComCast revealed figures showing Facebook had 12.3 billion desktop views while stalwart Youtube enjoyed 1 billion fewer views. However, these numbers become less impressive when it becomes apparent that 725 of the top 1000 videos on Facebook were stolen re-uploads from other platforms. Those 725 videos accounted for 17 billion of Facebook video’s views in the first quarter of 2015.

How it all works; how it’s rigged

YouTubers can make money, but that opportunity is not available on FB

YouTube producers like Jack Douglass make thousands of dollars in shared ad-revenue, but they have no similar opportunity on Facebook. Facebook videos are given a big push on the news feed and enjoy features like auto-play that artificially boost viewer numbers- Facebook even counts a view after a video has run for 3 seconds on a person’s news feed- while linked Youtube videos are restricted to small thumbnails that must be clicked to be played.

One video made by Douglass spoofing internet debates over the color of a dress garnered 1 million views, while a post by a popular Facebook group earned 20 million views for their page. Douglass estimates those 20 million stolen views would have accounted for $20,000.

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Facebook has admitted this as an issue

Facebook has admitted that content-theft is an issue on their platform and is seeking to improve identification of unauthorized content through the use of Audible Magic and its own video matching technology.

However, the complaint of many content creators isn’t that finding their stolen content is difficult- a stolen video with millions of views is bound to find its way to its owner- but that Facebook’s process to file a complaint and remove a video is unnecessarily arduous and only removes a video after its popularity has already dwindled and the damage is done.

In the meantime, Facebook continues to push video as its future and celebs like Tyrese Gibson take advantage of its laxity to profit off of stolen content.


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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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