Facebook’s video auto-play feature has had a mixed reception from users who either welcome its convenience, or who find the whole format to be incredibly intrusive. No matter which camp you are in, if you have the feature enabled, videos that start to play automatically as you scroll through your News Feed could led to increased cell phone costs.

A new report from internet monitoring company Sandvine indicates that the auto-play feature has increased Facebook traffic on mobile networks by 60% since October 2013. Video memes like the ‘Ice Bucket challenge’ (which has collectively topped 1 billion views) have only added to the amount of video content on the site. The default video setting for the feature is on because Facebook, and the creators and brands it wants to support, want to ensure that users see as much of its video content as possible. Many micro-form videos are over before you can click the off switch, which means you have been exposed to the message before you even had a chance to react. Fantastic news for brands, not so great for your wallet.

Facebook’s Video Auto-play Feature Increasing Mobile Bills?

The UK’s biggest and most influential consumer advice site, MoneySavingExpert, confirmed it has received “many complaints” from people who had received mobile phone bills that exceeded their data cap limits, and who believe that the auto-play feature is responsible. As videos auto-play by default – on wi-fi and 3G and 4G connections, the onus is on the user to switch off the feature (see below for instructions on how to do this).

facebook auto play video costs

Facebook Mobile Traffic Skyrockets by 60%

A new study from Sandvine highlights the fact that auto-play video contributed significantly to the increase in fixed and mobile traffic over the past year. The auto-play feature for video content was rolled out in September 2013, in the U.S., followed by video advertising content in December 2013.

The company tracked Facebook traffic between October 2013 and August 2014, and found that traffic increased by 60% on a U.S. based mobile network, and by over 200% on a U.S. based fixed network. Sandvine conclude that an auto-play video is the equivalent to 24-30 images being served in your Facebook News Feed every second – no wonder data usage is going through the roof! SandVine also noticed a ‘significant increase in bandwidth’ when Instagram introduced video to its site in June 2013.

facebook video autoplay mobile bandwidth

How To Turn Off Facebook Video Auto-play

If you leave the auto-play feature enabled on Facebook then videos will play automatically as you scroll through your News Feed (so, good luck to anyone that follows Buzzfeed Video or College Humor). If you want to disable Facebook’s video auto-play then just follow these very easy steps:

  1. Open the Facebook app
  2. Click on ‘App Settings’ page – you’ll find the menu icon in the upper-right hand side of the app’s home screen
  3. Scroll down until you find ‘Video Auto-play’ in the ‘General Settings’ menu.
  4. Switch the Video Auto-play option from ‘On’ to either ‘Off’ or to ‘Wi-Fi only’

Facebook has confirmed that the settings won’t default back to ‘On’ after a major update.