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Sports site sues Facebook for click fraud

RootZoo files class-action complaint

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Amidst a sizable number of online advertisers complaining that Facebook is billing for clicks that never happened, the inevitable class-action lawsuit has made its way to California court.

Sports site RootZoo has accused Facebook of putting a heavy finger on the scale of its pay-per-click (PPC) advertiser program. Facebook's PCC scheme charges advertisers a fixed amount each time a user clicks on their ad. However, RootZoo claims there's been a big discrepancy between the number of clicks it was charged for, and clicks that its own internal tracking software detected.

The filing alleges that Facebook billed the website with 804 click on June 2, 2008 while RootZoo recorded only 300 clicks that day. RootZoo's figures are claimed to have come from "two industry leading software programs that track the number of clicks to its website and where the clicks originated."

In the course of investigating the clicks, RootZoo further claims it found that hundreds of clicks were coming from small towns in the US on a daily basis between April and May 2008, a rate that "would be almost statistically impossible given the distribution of the American population" and RootZoo's history of traffic from Facebook adverts.

The complaint suggests the click fraud is perpetrated by rival sites that want to increase the fees their competitor is paying and to use up their budget of clicks for the day.

Beyond the discrepancy, RootZoo says Facebook doesn't do enough to prevent click fraud shenanigans and doesn't warn advertisers of the potential flaw in its program. It alleges that when advertisers suspect they've become victims of click fraud, Facebook gives them the cold shoulder:

"Facebook has refused to take any action in response to these complaints nor has Facebook made available any of its internal data that would allow advertisers to understand the basis for the clicks on the advertisers' advertisements which Facebook claims to have occurred."

Facebook denies the charges against them, claiming it already has measures in place to prevent the ad scamming.

"We have developed a series of sophisticated systems to detect suspicious clicks and ensure advertisers are not charged for this activity," the company said in a statement. "In addition, we analyze tremendous amounts of data to discern larger click patterns and, in rare cases where this research or other analysis reveals advertisers have been charged for invalid clicks, we have always, and will continue to, issue credits to impacted advertisers."

The lawsuit filed late last week in US District Court for the Northern District of California asks for reimbursement of the allegedly ill-gained charges, unspecified damages, and to bar Facebook from the allegedly "unfair" and "fraudulent" advertising scheme. ®

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