Hank Green, YouTube star and Vlog Brother among other things, has accused Facebook of, essentially, lying about its recent success at becoming a center for online video and competing with YouTube in terms of total video views. The post on Medium, titled, "Theft, Lies, and Facebook Video" lays out the argument that, when it comes to online video, Facebook is cheating.
The first issue Green addresses, native uploading vs. linked video, is already known. The algorithm that Facebook uses to determine what appears in your news feed is designed to prefer video that was uploaded to Facebook directly, rather than simply linked to in a post or comment. Green presents some numbers gathered by Sonja Foust of Duke University, demonstrating that a native video can receive hundreds to thousands more views than a linked one. Green admits that this is something of a quibble, as it is Facebook's prerogative to support its own services.
More important to Green, however, is the way Facebook counts "views" of its videos. On YouTube, you have to watch a video for about 30 seconds (depending on how long a video is) before it counts as a view. On Facebook, it only takes 3 seconds, and that's before you've even turned on the sound for a video. Part of the motivation for how Facebook counts views may come from the fact that its rate of engagement from videos is so low, as only 20% of users are still watching a video on Facebook 30 seconds in.
This is of great importance, because views are how creators measure their success, and how advertisers determine where and when they should advertise on certain services. As Green puts it, "when Facebook says it has roughly the same number of views as YouTube, what they really mean is that they have roughly 1/5th of YouTube's views."
Finally, Facebook's video success is, to a large extent, built on the backs of creators who have had their stolen from them. This is another known phenomenon called 'freebooting,' where already-successful videos are downloaded from other sites, usually YouTube, and put on Facebook where they can garner thousands if not millions of new views.
Hank cites a recent report from Ogilvy and Tubular labs that states that 725 of the 1000 most popular video from the first quarter of 2015 were freebooted videos, which garnered 17 billion views, which made up a very large portion of Facebook's video traffic. While this seems very shady, it is also inadvertant (or at least Facebook can claim it is), as Facebook isn't the one putting up the stolen video. The real problem, according to Green, is what it is doing about stolen content: nothing.
When YouTube was bought out by Google, they set up an internal system called "Content ID" that allows uploaded videos to be checked against a huge database of owned content. It not only reduces theft of video, but also allows the views garnered by stolen content to be counted for the actual creators. Facebook has nothing like this in place, and, because it is unsearchable, doesn't allow content creators to even find out if their stuff has been stolen. If stolen content is reported, Facebook will remove the content, but it takes a few days, which is usually long after the offending content has gathered the majority of its views.
The narrative that Facebook is putting out about itself (which is being accepted rather uncritically) is that it is innovating by moving into online video, and doing so with great success. Heck, it's even competing with YouTube now! But, as Hank Green demonstrates, this is not a success that has actually been earned.