Last fall, Streamlabs published a report indicating that Facebook Gaming had overtaken YouTube Gaming to become the second-most popular platform by hours watched, just behind Twitch. In January, StreamElements reported the platform had its best month ever, hitting a new peak of 617 million hours of monthly watch time. Reports like these have raised eyebrows for some, as Facebook has struggled to attract high-profile streamers, despite its significant investments in live gaming.
But data from CrowdTangle, the company’s analytics service, raises serious questions about the state of Facebook Gaming. Though the platform has snagged some notable names like Neymar Jr. and StoneMountain64, their streams didn’t appear at the top of rankings. Nor do any of the streamers identified by Streamlabs as the most-watched creators on the platform. Instead it’s a jumble of generically named pages that call themselves gaming creators, but behave more like spammers, often posting pirated movie clips or nonsensical videos disguised as live gaming streams.
These pages inexplicably rack up millions of views and hundreds of thousands of interactions on streams with ridiculous-sounding titles like “car vs. giant bulge” or “this ship is full of passengers.” And while most streams contained some actual gaming footage, they often began with pirated clips from popular movies or other completely unrelated content. Despite Facebook’s clear policies on spam and non-gaming content, some of these accounts are still in Facebook’s Level Up or Partner programs, which allows them to sell fan subscriptions and access other monetization features.
The CrowdTangle data
To try to assess the biggest streamers on Facebook Gaming, we used Facebook’s CrowdTangle analytics tool to search for the live videos with the most interactions from Facebook Gaming creator pages over a 30-day period from January 16 to February 15. Though Facebook has in the past taken issue with “interactions” as a reflection of what’s popular on its platform, interactions are vitally important to streamers as they are a strong indicator of engagement with their content.
Of the top 10 streams, nine of the videos used bizarre tactics, such as intercutting gaming footage with movie clips, more indicative of spammers than gamers. And while not all of the pages were in Facebook’s monetization programs, several that were regularly posted content that appeared to be in violation of the company’s monetization policies. More than half featured pirated movie clips or unoriginal non-gaming content.
What follows is a closer look at those top ten creators whose streams dominated Facebook Gaming during the one-month period we looked at. Though this is only a small window into the platform, searches during other periods have surfaced similar results. Rather than outliers, these videos are reflective of a pattern in which spammers appear to be exploiting the service.
How does ‘Cars vs Giant Crater’ get 112 million views?
The top video was from a gaming creator page called “AU.” The February 2 video titled “Cars vs Giant Crater – Giant Pit”, which has since been removed, ran for 22 minutes and had a staggering 112 million views. It claimed to be a livestream of a car simulator game called BeamNG.drive, but the first 11 minutes was actually a clip from a Hong Kong film called Cook Up a Storm. At about the 11-minute mark, the clip abruptly switched to footage from the vehicle simulator game.
This type of video was not an outlier for AU, which appears to frequently post movie clips disguised as the vehicle simulator game. However, most are not nearly as successful as “Cars vs Giant Crater – Giant Pit.” A 12-hour clip, also posted February 2, and with the exact same title received 66,000 views and only 13 comments, perhaps because it was a 12-hour video of a car simulator game with no voiceover or evidence that anyone was actually playing. However, yet another video, also with the same title and posted February 2, was able to rack up more than 13 million views before it was eventually removed. That 22-minute clip opened with a roughly 11-minute long excerpt from a Bengali film called Amazon Obhijaan.
Tagging non-gaming content as gaming is against Facebook’s policy, and the company says it’s developed technology to “identify and demote videos that are tagged as a game but are displaying non-gameplay content to artificially gain reach” on the platform. Streamers who do so may lose their Partner or Level Up status, but the company doesn’t remove these videos.
AU is not the only “gaming creator” using questionable tactics involving pirated movie footage. In fact, AU appeared to be connected to another page that also had a top 10 video during the same time period. This supposed streamer — the page is called “Farhad” — had the No. 3 gaming video by interactions. This video, which has also been removed, bizarrely titled “Alien – Baby crying on track – monkey stops the train and save the baby,” was posted on February 1 and got more than 91 million views. It was also tagged as BeamNG.drive, but instead of the car sim game, it opened with the very same 11-minute clip from Cook Up a Storm. The only difference was that Farhad’s version had a watermark with the word “Farhad” overlaid onto the clip. That same watermark appeared on at least one other video from AU. However, unlike AU, “Farhad” is a member of Facebook’s “Level Up” program which allows streamers to earn money from their content.
The page with the fourth most interacted-with video also appeared to be using bizarre tactics. The streamer, going by “GGWP BROO,” posted a two-hour clip tagged as Euro Truck Simulator 2 but titled “This ship is full of passengers.” The “live stream” opened with a two-minute and forty second clip of a ferry boat in Bangladesh before abruptly switching to gameplay from Euro Truck Simulator. It had 91 million views, despite the fact that the footage appeared to be pre-recorded. The person pictured in the video using a wheel-style controller throughout the two-hour clip doesn’t speak at any time. A close viewing reveals that his movements don’t correspond to the game being played, and closer inspection indicates the footage is looped.
Nearly all of GGWP BROO’s streams follow the same pattern: a few minutes of something completely unrelated, like a bear in a trap or an octopus with a scuba diver, followed by Euro Truck Simulator. The man pictured with the wheel controller never speaks in any of the videos.
Despite all this, the streamer was a member of Facebook’s Partner program, a step up above “Level Up” as it allows streamers to potentially monetize with in-stream ads, along with other perks. Later, the page was downgraded to “Level Up,” but was still selling subscriptions. A page promoting its creator hub, where followers can purchase $1.99-per-month subscriptions, advertised “Adult Games 18+.”
Subscribing to GGWP BROO didn’t bring any of the promised exclusive content, though. It unlocked a 10-minute video that appeared to be a low-res compilation of TikTok-style videos of girls dancing, and a private Facebook Group that simply reshared links of GGWP BROO’s public streams. After this reporter joined, it had nine members, including GGWP BROO.
Yet GGWP BROO’s has several streams with millions of views despite the obviously spammy nature of the content. Moreover, the streamer, who is based in Indonesia according to the page transparency information provided by Facebook, doesn’t seem to exist outside of Facebook Gaming. There are no other social media accounts linked, and a search for the handle on other platforms turns up nothing.
Rod Breslau, an esports analyst, says this is another red flag that signals the accounts in question are likely illegitimate. “It doesn’t make any sense at all,” he said. “Usually, if you’re really popular on one platform, you’ll be really popular on multiple platforms.” Yet many of the streamers that appeared at the top of CrowdTangle don’t appear to have any kind of identity outside of their generically-named Facebook Gaming creator pages.
The was true for the similarly anonymous streamer going by “Piu Roy,” whose January 17 video “Cars vs Giant Bulge #4” racked up more than 71 million views and 670,000 interactions. The two-minute clip, tagged as American Truck Simulator, featured several cars driving over a comically-high bump in the road. Roy has no contact info or any other information on their page, and none of their streams show a human face or feature any kind of narration. Yet despite their extremely underwhelming content, “Piu Roy” has several videos with more than a million views — something that even Facebook Gaming’s most recognizable names seem to rarely achieve — and is selling $1.99-per-month fan subscriptions from their page.
Some “streamers” made even less of an attempt to hide their intentions. A page called “Viral VI” that appears to almost exclusively post movie clips thinly disguised as game streams. Their top video, titled “New Best Action Movie 2022,” was tagged as Red Dead Redemption 2, though that game appeared nowhere in the stream. Instead, the 20-minute video opens with a six-minute clip from the 2020 movie Call of the Wild before abruptly switching to a car simulator game. It racked up more than 53 million views and 613,000 interactions.
Similarly, “The Flash,” whose January 29th stream was the ninth most-interacted with on Facebook, has repeatedly used the exact same phrase. Their 17-minute video claiming to be WWE2020 was also titled “New Best Action Movies 2022.” In fact, the first 11 minutes of the clip was lifted from a Spanish dub of 2019’s Terminator Dark Fate.
Pirated movie clips wasn’t the only repurposed broadcast racking up views. A streamer going by “Naruto,” shared a 12-hour video of an elaborate rescue operation of a Moroccan boy trapped in a well in a rural village. The accident, and subsequent days-long rescue attempt, had sparked international attention. Though Naruto did not pretend the video was a game — the clip was tagged as “Hanging Out” — the video was almost certainly not Naruto’s own live stream. Live video of the rescue attempt was broadcast widely, and Naruto’s stream is at one point interrupted by a pop-under ad for a restaurant in Australia that graphically matched those that appear on YouTube videos.
Even so, the streamer used the content to encourage viewers to buy stars, referring to the virtual gifts as “donations.” The video got more than 10 million views and nearly half a million interactions (it’s not clear how many stars they earned from the broadcast). Naruto, whose page manager location is listed as Australia, posted several other videos depicting the rescue around the same time.
While it’s not uncommon for streamers to use the “Hanging Out” tag — it’s the equivalent of “Just Chatting” on Twitch — to stream non-game content, Facebook’s monetization policies stipulate that monetized content must be authentic and original. Yet Naruto is currently in Level Up, recently had Partner status, and is still selling monthly subscriptions for $4.99.
Even Pages that at first seemed legitimate were using bizarre content in their streams, At number eight was a three-minute and 40 second video from a streamer called Edge of Portal. The game was tagged as Arma 3, a tactical military simulation game, and the clip was described as “ARMA3 Saudi Arabia is developing the missile in cooperation with China.” The views were oddly high, at 58 million, but it appeared to be actual game footage. Edge of Portal also had a much more polished page than some of the more obvious spammers, and many clips had a visible player or some kind of narration.
But it turns out Edge of Portal employs the same tricks as other top-viewed game creators. Several streams open with a few seconds of a static image of a crashed Air Niugini plane from 2018. At least one opened with an extremely low-res video of cars falling into a river before switching to gaming footage. Others begin with a clip of a man operating what appears to be an excavator.
What’s not clear is exactly why Edge of Portal and so many other streamers front-load their clips with something totally unrelated, and often mundane. It seems as if it’s designed to exploit Facebook’s recommendation algorithm in some way, but it could also be a kind of visual clickbait, with strange video thumbnails meant to draw more potential viewers in.
That seems to be the point of a 10-minute video from a page called Bomber Gaming, which had the tenth most-interacted with live video. The clip, tagged as “eFootball PES 2021 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam,” opens not with a soccer game but several minutes of blooper-style videos of people falling over. Bomber Gaming is in Facebook’s Partner Program, and advertises “exclusive broadcasts” for $1.99/month subscriptions.
Of the ten videos we looked at, the only one that seemed as if it could have come from a legitimate streamer was the second-most interacted with video from a page named Abo ATA Gaming. The PUBG stream had 41 million views, and close to a million interactions, though it was later removed from Facebook. Abo ATA Gaming didn’t immediately respond to messages. We attempted to reach the people running all of the pages described above, but they either couldn’t be reached, or didn’t respond to questions.
Is anyone at Facebook paying attention?
Engadget’s findings raise questions about how much, if any, scrutiny Facebook Gaming creators are subjected to. Not only were the streams detailed above easy to find, the social network’s own accounting of its most popular content would suggest that these videos are among the most-viewed on the entire platform.
Take the top video, the one from “AU” that opened with the clip from Cook Up a Storm. According to CrowdTangle, it had more than 112 million views during the 30-day period we looked at. That’s an incredibly high view count, even by Facebook’s somewhat generous standards in which three seconds counts as a “view.”
The biggest names on Facebook Gaming rarely, if ever, generate those kinds of view counts. Disguised Toast, whose move to Facebook Gaming made headlines in 2019, has rarely achieved one million views, much less 100 million. (He has since left Facebook Gaming and moved back to Twitch.) And while it’s true that much of Facebook Gaming’s viewership comes from international audiences, even pages with large international followings aren’t getting anything close to 100 million views on a single stream.
According to a recent report from Streamlabs, the top gaming creator on Facebook by watch hours is Egyptian streamer Tarboun. Tarboun, whose Twitter bio boasts that he has the record for the highest views on Facebook Gaming, has many streams with a million or more views, but nothing remotely approaching 100 million (the highest I could find was a video from a year ago with 8.3 million views).
When Facebook first launched its “Level Up” program, streamers wishing to join had to apply to get in and access monetization features. And even streamers who met the minimum requirements sometimes had lengthy waits before they were accepted. “We select people after watching them stream a little bit. We put our stamp on creators who fit our community,” Facebook’s head of gaming product Vivek Sharma told Business Insiderin 2019. Sharma, who now works on the company’s Metaverse platform Horizon, said at the time there was a “long queue” of gamers hoping to join.
But that process seems to have now evaporated. A streamer who spoke with Engadget said that “it doesn’t take much to get into Level Up … as long as you follow the guidelines, you just get it.” Right now, Level Up requires Pages to have at least 100 followers, and that they stream at least four hours of game content over at least two days in a 14-day period.
Once Level Up is unlocked, streamers can then earn stars, the on-platform currency similar to bits on Twitch. But for many of the streams detailed above, it’s not clear how many if any are earning Stars on this content. Partnered streamers can earn revenue through in-stream ads, but not all are given access to the feature. (In-stream ads never appeared on the videos described above.) And even those selling subscriptions don’t seem to be generating significant revenue from their content, as evidenced by GGWP BROO’s nine-member exclusive subscriber group.
While it wasn’t always clear what these pages were trying to gain by exploiting Facebook Gaming, the social network has made huge investments to lure creators to its platform. The social network has said it plans to invest more than $1 billion in creators across its apps over the next year. And the company has pledged not to take a cut of revenue earned from stars, subscriptions and other monetization features until at least 2023.
That Facebook’s gaming platform, one of its longest-running creator-centric initiatives, is being exploited to this extent doesn’t bode well for the company’s lofty ambitions in the space. If the company can’t (or won’t) reliably catch game streamers blatantly breaking its rules, there’s little reason to believe the company will catch creators exploiting other parts of its platform.
Moreover, it raises serious questions about whether content from the likes of AU and GGWP BROO is distorting the perception of Facebook Gaming’s popularity. (Notably, it wouldn’t be the first time a Facebook-run video initiative resulted with allegations of pumped up video views.)
The platform is now regularly cited as the second-largest streaming platform behind Twitch, largely due to its growth internationally. But the most-watched content on the platform seems to be from spammers sharing low-quality video lifted from other sources. And with views in the tens of millions — far more than any legitimate streamer we’ve observed — these streams could be inflating Facebook Gaming’s metrics.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Meta said the company was “working to improve our tools to identify violating content” on Facebook Gaming. “We use a mix of automated and human review to ensure creators are following the rules for what’s allowed on Facebook Gaming. We’re working to improve our tools to identify violating content, and to make sure people using Facebook Gaming have the best experience.”
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