Facebook Has a Video-Stealing Problem

Step one: Rip video from YouTube. Step two: Repost on Facebook. Step three: profit.

Nov 10 2015, 11:14pm

The game is on to see which social network can bring in the most video views a day, and the top two contenders are Facebook and Snapchat. But Facebook has a bit of a problem. The way the company counts views lends itself easily to abuse.

This video from In a Nutshell, a popular YouTube channel that posts science animations, gets into some of the more sneaky ways Facebook arranges your timeline to rack up view counts. For instance, your feed is set to prefer Facebook-uploaded videos, which autoplay. Views are counted as soon as the video plays for three seconds, even if the video's volume is turned down. This is liberal, especially for people who go through their feeds slowly.

But the biggest issue the video highlights is the practice of freebooting, or stealing and re-uploading other people's content onto Facebook to rack up ad revenue or popularity from view counts. Not only does Facebook profit from this, but so do the people who upload the videos.

While the company is trying to set up a matching system to make sure less of this happens, the video says that the byzantine process of getting your stolen content taken down takes days to happen. That's much longer than the average half-life of internet content. And In a Nutshell is likely a frequent victim of video sharing. After all, their videos see more than 1 million views on average, and more than that, they're infinitely shareable infographic videos.

Could Facebook ever become the platform for creators like it says it wants to be? Not until it finds a better way to protect the artists and makers it says it wants to support.