Facebook suits Hong Kong affiliates for ad fraud
On December 5, Facebook filed suit against a Hongkonese digital marketing agency called ILikeAd Media and against two Hong Kong residents: Chen Xiao Cong and Huang Tao.
ILikeAd Media software developer Chen Xiao Cong and marketer Huang Tao are said to:
- run ads violating the social media’s advertising policies;
- use malware to hijack users’ ad accounts, run deceptive ads and use the victims’ payment information to pay for campaigns;
- engage in cloaking practices to hide the ads’ actual landing pages from Facebook’s systems.
Facebook also claimed that the defendants used celebrities’ photos in their ads to trick users into clicking on them and promoted such items as diet pills, counterfeit goods, and male enhancement supplements.
The social giant reinforced its commitment to “creating real-world consequences for those who deceive users and engage in cloaking schemes”.
This kind of litigation is indeed rare, but this precedent can pave the way for similar actions and spawn numerous ad fraud lawsuits. Facebook has long been aware that some marketers resort to cloaking to circumvent its policies and has been taking action against this practice. However, the social giant has to deal with a more complex issue now. The ILikeAd Media team seems to have used the so-called brute force accounts without their owners’ consent, which is, by the way, identity theft.
It’s likely that Facebook knew that accounts got stolen, resold and then used for commercial purposes. However, when this information was disclosed in BuzzFeed investigation, Facebook had no other choice but to start another crusade against those who use the platform’s commercial potential to run aggressive ads and promote “gray” goods and services. Of course, it is impossible to moderate everything manually, but Facebook will definitely try to put some new spokes into the affiliates’ wheel.
The closer the US presidential elections, the more trigger-happy Facebook will get, and so those affiliates who run Facebook campaigns are in for some rough time.
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