Facebook’s friends list may not be quite as long as it claims.
The social media giant was caught red-faced after Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser noted that its site promised advertisers access to more than 100 million Americans aged 18 to 34 — a third more than actually exist, according to the US Census Bureau.
Facebook’s ads manager platform purports to have a potential reach of 41 million Americans aged 18 to 24 — but according to the Census, there are only 31 million US residents in that age group.
For individuals between 25 and 34, the social network says it can reach 61 million Americans, while the Census shows there to be only 45 million in that range.
Facebook admitted that its data relies on “self-reporting” by users, which can result in inflated numbers as younger teens are prone claim on profiles they’re over 18 to ensure broad web access.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has been caught handing misleading information to publishers. Previously, the company was forced to apologize after it exaggerated the amount of time users spent watching video content. In November, it also admitted to finding “bugs” in its system that miscalculated how many people viewed ads.
Following that revelation, Facebook agreed to have its advertising metrics audited by the Media Rating Council.
A Facebook spokesperson told the Post that its numbers “are not designed to match population or census estimates.”
“Reach estimations are based on a number of factors, including Facebook user behaviors, user demographics, location data from devices, and other factors,” the spokesperson said. “They are designed to estimate how many people in a given area are eligible to see an ad a business might run.“