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Facebook is Stealing Your Video Content and Ad Revenue

November 11, 2015 Aaron Miles

facebook video stolen

Screenshot via In a Nutshell – Kurzgesagt video below

With Facebook's recent announcement that the social media giant's video strategy is now garnering it 8 billion video views per day (up from 4 billion per day in April) comes several reminders that Facebook's video success is largely based on cheating, lies, and thievery. Basically, if you are a creator of video content that is in any way popular, Facebook is probably hosting your stolen content, and stealing your revenue.

The most prominent recent criticism of Facebook's video policies and practices, which is getting the usual bevy of shares and likes on social networks, is a video from Kurzgesagt, the team behind the infinitely shareable In a Nutshell videos.

For those who can't watch the video, it works like this: Facebook is using a number of different methods to boost it's own view counts, frequently with content that is stolen from creators on other sites, most often YouTube, and doing a (perhaps intentionally) poor job of allowing creators to find that content and report it as stolen or fraudulent, only taking it down after it has gotten almost all the views it will get.

A more expansive explanation: While leading video hub YouTube only counts a "view" after a video has been watched for 30 seconds (usually), Facebook counts views after three seconds, even when the sound on the video is off. Because of autoplay, you probably have technically "viewed" several videos just because you were scrolling down your feed at a mildly slow pace. So this leads to a lot of videos having drastically inflated view counts.

Facebook also changed their news feed algorithm to favor native Facebook video instead of embedded YouTube videos and links, meaning that if you wanted to share a creator's original content on Facebook honestly and give them the credit they deserve, it would be much, much less likely to be widely seen.

Additionally, YouTube has a "Content ID" system that identifies stolen content and alerts rights holders (and, when content is stolen, gives the views that stolen content garnered back to original creators) who can quickly have that content taken down. Facebook has no such system, instead forcing creators to fill out a form and wait for a takedown.

This is compounded by the fact that Facebook doesn't allow you to search for your own content. Which means the only way to find out if your stuff has been stolen is for someone else to send you a link, or find it in your own feed by luck. And even when creators do get a link and fill out the form, by the time the video is taken down it has gotten 90% of the views it was going to get. Which means all that ad revenue that should be going to creators is going to Facebook.

We have covered this issue before, and this isn't the first time content creators have tried to address the problem. Hank Green of the Vlog Brothers and Smarter Every Day, two major video content creators, have repeatedly demonstrated how Facebook is distorting the actual popularity of video on the social network. Despite how popular they are as content creators, they are nothing compared to the behemoth that is Facebook. Facebook's response to the charges was anemic.

The problem is that Facebook has no real incentive to change its ways. It has a certain amount of plausible deniability when it comes to stolen content, as they aren't the ones uploading it. But they are massively profiting from it, and doing little to make it easier or faster for creators to have their content taken down.

And, as the video states, while Facebook has said it wants to work with creators and is testing models of ad revenue sharing with big publishers, it currently does not share ad revenue with smaller creators, and has done little to address their very real and very serious concerns.

YouTube's Content ID system is far from perfect, but it is a real effort by the video hosting giant to give credit (and money) where credit is due. Until Facebook starts using such a program, shares ad revenue, and in general tries to do better by the people making the actual content that is making them money, they will be in the wrong, ethically, and perhaps at some point legally. Their inaction will have consequences. No huge number on a bottom line can fix a bad reputation.

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