Facebook faces fresh controversy over young audience numbers

Facebook has been accused of telling advertisers that they can reach millions of young audiences that do not exist.

Facebook faces fresh controversy over young audience numbers

According to research from Australia’s AdNews, a study of 12 countries revealed that nine had discrepancies that amounted to a difference of 42 million 20- to 29-year-olds that Facebook claims it can reach, compared to official population figures.

In the UK, Facebook’s reach of 20-29s was 3.4 million more than the population (a 39% discrepancy), although the US had the largest discrepancy with Facebook estimating that it could reach 19.3 million more users in this key age bracket than the 47 million that actually exist.

There were discrepancies in almost every leading economy, including seven countries in the G8 revealing the problem is global – particularly in markets where Facebook has a high penetration of users. The difference ranged between 26% to 42% of population figures.

The markets where Facebook did not exceed population data were Japan, South Africa and Russia, where there are proportionally fewer users.

A spokesman for Facebook said: "Reach estimations are based on a number of factors, including Facebook user behaviours, user demographics, location data from devices, and other factors.They are designed to estimate how many people in a given area are eligible to see an ad a business might run.They are not designed to match population or census estimates. We are always working to improve our estimates."