Inflating social media statistics is a big business online. Whether it’s hiring a Twitter bot army or boosting Facebook likes with click scams, the goal is the same: to appear more popular. When it comes to YouTube, artificially high view counts could be a sign that a user is trying to game the advertising system for more money, and YouTube wants no part in this.
So Google is doing what it can to ensure the authenticity of YouTube audiences. According to Philipp Pfeiffenberger, a YouTube software engineer, “YouTube isn’t just a place for videos, it’s a place for meaningful human interaction.” He added that on YouTube, likes, comments and views inform and represent how creators interact with their audiences.
Traditionally, YouTube only monitored videos for spam and fake views for a short period after the video was released, which resulted in videos with 1,000 likes and only ‘301+’ views, for example. Now the plan is for YouTube to periodically check view counts and adjust them “as new evidence comes to light.”
This ongoing housecleaning effort is just one more step in YouTube’s extended campaign to modernize and legitimize the site. In 2012, subscriber numbers were adjusted to reflect deleted accounts after dormant accounts were removed. With Google+ integration, users were pushed to post under their real names and more recently, the comment section was overhauled entirely to be G+ based.
Sanjana Chappalli, head of LEWIS pulse, a PR firm that specializes in digital marketing, told the BBC that advertising companies pay very close attention to YouTube views. “But if those views have been fraudulently generated — then [advertising] is likely to miss the target audience and have little or no return on investment,” Chappalli said.
YouTube’s earnings went up 51 percent in 2013, and there are millions of opportunities to monetize every search, every view and every click. Neither YouTube nor advertisers are willing to waste any of those opportunities on bots or scams when there’s such a lucrative market to be exploited.
Image credit: Rego Korosi