Startup discovers 80% of Facebook ad clicks coming from bots

By on July 31, 2012, 11:00 AM

A small startup known as Limited Run has publically decided to withdraw their presence from Facebook over concerns about the social network’s advertising practices. According to Limited Run, only 20 percent of ad clicks actually come from real people; the remaining 80 percent are all bot-generated.

The company became suspicious while testing Facebook’s ad system for the launch of their new brand. During these tests, they noticed that the social network was charging them for clicks but they could only verify that 20 percent of those clicks were actually showing up on their site. They tried multiple analytics services which all showed the same results.

Limited Run even went so far as to develop their own analytics software. Data from this program showed that JavaScript was disabled on 80 percent of clicks originating from Facebook. According to a post on their Facebook page (which will soon be deleted), if a person clicking an ad doesn’t have JavaScript enabled, it’s very difficult to verify the click. In their years of experience, only 1-2 percent of users surf without JavaScript, not 80 percent.

To further back up these claims, they built a page logger to keep track of each click coming into their site from Facebook. This data indeed showed that 80 percent of the clicks they were paying for were from bots.

Limited Run co-founder Tom Mango told TechCrunch that his company reached out to Facebook but all they received were canned responses. He further noted that they spent nearly a month testing and confirming all of their data just to be sure but he doesn’t blame the social network for what happened.

Mango says it could just as easily be a competitor running a DOS attack to drive up their advertising rates but he wishes Facebook would at least acknowledge the situation or attempt to do something to stop it.




User Comments: 23

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NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

And just where do I get these ad clicking bots >_>

Adhmuz Adhmuz, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Just another reason why Facebook is evil and should not be trusted. Considering the advertiser is getting charged per click this should be a serious problem, not something to be taken lightly. Raising further questions to how reliable the advertising really is on Facebook, if it turns out the source of the clicky bots is not third party but instead Facebook itself. There's obvious legal issues here that will likely end up in court if not addressed swiftly.

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

Probably doesn't concern facebook too much since they don't seem to be affected negatively by it

Staff
Jesse Jesse said:

Probably doesn't concern facebook too much since they don't seem to be affected negatively by it

If this gets out to major advertisers and they drop ads on Facebook, they will be concerned.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Probably doesn't concern facebook too much since they don't seem to be affected negatively by it

Unless it turns out Facebook is involved in artificially generating the clicks to bolster their ad revenue, which is what drives their profit base. Conspiracy theories are fun!

Neojt said:

why do you think they got such a great IPO !!!!

Guest said:

Google does the same thing....that's why I stopped spending my advertising dollars with them......

mosu said:

While trolling Apple seems spontaneous, some brands like Google or AMD have their own dedicated trolls named guest...

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

Low blow for Facebook, but we will have to see how verifiable are those claims and how open Facebook will be about their raw ad logs. Unlike the Guest above commented, Google has been working on fine tuning its AdSense system for years and I'm pretty sure today they keep a very clean slate for this kind of things.

Guest said:

Google has been working on fine tuning its AdSense system for years and I'm pretty sure today they keep a very clean slate for this kind of things.

About as well as they deleted the street view data? :)

Ranger12 Ranger12 said:

I can't remember ever clicking on an advertisement on Facebook. The vast majority of them look cheap and shady.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

About as well as they deleted the street view data?

OMG - LOL

However I do believe they came forward when they discovered they still had the data, so you can't say they were intentionally holding the data. I do agree though, good intentions don't always get the job done. At least Google is presenting the public with good intentions, I'm not so sure about Facebook.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I can't remember ever clicking on an advertisement on Facebook. The vast majority of them look cheap and shady.

...not unlike a large quantity of facebook accounts

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

Prob bots made by fb to generate money ofcourse, who would click on an ad for ANY reason

Guest said:

I forgot Facebook even had advertisement since I've used Adblock for years now!

Guest said:

However I do believe they came forward when they discovered they still had the data, so you can't say they were intentionally holding the data.

Hard to say...they may have been caught, then allowed to 'come forward'. The reports I read seemed to indicate that they are no longer going to delete the data, they are turning it over to the authorities for review. Sounds to me like a deal was made. Now not only does google have the data, the government does to.

I don't trust either one of them. Neither one of them have the end users best interests at heart.

Tygerstrike said:

FaceBook and I have never been friends. I refused MySpace as well. It wouldnt surprise me if FB employees have bots on thier own home PCs. FaceBook itself I dont think will have any blatant involvment. Its way too shady. They want to keep thier noses clean especially after thier stock incident being fresh in everyones mind.

Guest said:

Advertising on fakebook? They actually do that? When I was on fakebook a few months ago, Adblock didn't let anything past. Oh well, fakebook is but a distant memory for me.

Guest said:

They should use their Facebook page to sell their click-tracking software to other advertisers so long term customers can find out how much they've been overcharged and then sue Facebook.

RajeGera RajeGera said:

And just where do I get these ad clicking bots >_>

There are so many who have been doing in Fiverr.com and if not then post what u want in frellancing kinda websites.

RajeGera RajeGera said:

You can only control the software automation by following captcha but I think you cant stop it.Even so many technologies support automation by keepig coding simple like.Net.

TJGeezer said:

Cranky old Fred Reed, the writer, said he'd heard a Facebook page was a good first step toward publicizing his e-books but he'd rather have untreatable TB. From the comments here I'd gather Reed's attitude isn't uncommon. What @Tygerstrike said about Facebook employees running click-bots from home to prop up their employer's financials does make a sad kind of sense. If they got caught at it, however... ouch! Another body blow when Facebook is already staggered, regardless of whether the fb executives knew anything about it. Oops, there went another dollar off the stock price.

Guest said:

Most people that know how to use the internet have flash and java script  disabled and run them on command. This is due to java script  and flash being terrible. Web developers need to learn to stop relying on java script  and flash.

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