Facebook advertisers ripped off; Algae bloom legislation needed

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If you’re like many marine dealers who paid to place video ads on Facebook, you’ve been victimized by fake metrics and may be entitled to refunds.

Meanwhile, many dealers are facing serious algae problems that can depress sales, and it’s time to speak out for action.

First, Facebook admitted in 2016 that it conducted unfair business by disseminating inaccurate metrics that significantly overestimated the amount of time users were spending watching video ads. But it wasn’t the last time Facebook provided inflated video metrics. In May 2017 it issued refunds to some advertisers after admitting it claimed people had clicked on their video ads when they didn’t. And the following September analysts accused Facebook of wildly overstating the potential reach of ads.

All this came to light because a group of small advertisers filed a lawsuit in California in 2016. But it now appears Facebook actually knew of the problems more than a year before the 2016 disclosure, and it was much worse, according to an amended complaint filed by the advertisers and reported by Suzanne Vranica in the Wall Street Journal.

The earlier court proceedings allowed review of around 80,000 pages of internal Facebook records, and the plaintiffs said Tuesday that they had uncovered evidence showing Facebook knew about the miscalculated metrics back to January 2015. In addition, the advertisers’ claim the metrics weren’t just blown up 60 to 80 percent as Facebook claimed, but ran to a 150 to 900 percent!

“Facebook’s internal efforts behind the scenes,” reads the new court filing, “reflect a company mentality of reckless indifference toward the accuracy of its metrics.”

Facebook told the WSJ it was “false” to suggest it tried to hide the issue from advertisers. “We told our customers about the error when we discovered it and updated our help center to explain the issue,” a spokeswoman said.

Bottom line: If you’re using Facebook for video advertising, or have in recent years, you may want to double check your billing and viewing claims. A refund may be in order.

Speak out about algal blooms

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You’ve likely seen the blooms of blue-green algae that look like guacamole on the water. Officially called harmful algal blooms, they are occurring with increasing regularity in parts of the country you might not expect, according to the American Sportfishing Association.

For example, South Florida has experienced multiple algae blooms in the last couple of years, and this year’s is the worst, yet. Moreover, experts suggest these blooms could also be fueling the current red tide outbreak that has killed thousands of tons of marine life along Florida’s west coast and is now showing up along the state’s east coast.

In the Great Lakes, Lake Erie has been suffering from serious blooms for several years. Even a ruling in a federal Clean Water Act case by U.S. District Judge James G. Carr hasn’t resulted in action. Citing the state's indifference to Lake Erie's health, the judge said the problem is a “result of [Ohio's] inattention." Ohio continues to “study,” aka stall, seriously addressing the problem.

In California, the State Water Board reported algae blooms at dangerous levels in Lake Elsinore. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, various natural resource agencies warn boaters to watch for blooms. There are many more states impacted.

Fortunately, Keep America Fishing reports that there’s a bill in Congress that will help address this problem. The “Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 2018” — HR-6645 — would reauthorize a key control program aimed at reducing harmful algal blooms and hypoxia across the country.

The bill is waiting to be taken up by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. But it needs a push to get there. So it’s important that you contact your congressional representative and urge him or her to request that the committee move on HR-6645.

As an industry, we’ve been pretty successful pushing for approval of bills that can improve boating and generate sales. HR-6645 is another one we could put in the win column with your help.

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