On April 9, Facebook filed a complaint in California federal court against Basant Gajjar accusing him of violating the company’s terms and policies by providing cloaking software under the name of “LeadCloak”.
As the name suggests, LeadCloak was designed to circumvent the social network’s automated ad review system with the ultimate goal to push deceptive ads. Prior to the lawsuit, LeadCloak’s homepage made little effort to conceal these malicious practices and openly claimed that “LeadCloak is a powerful cloaker that you can use to easily cloak various ad networks to get targeted traffic to your web sites and offer pages.”
Recently, however, the company has seemingly changed its field of activity
LeadCloak’s software also targeted the likes of Google, Oath, WordPress, and Shopify, according to Jessica Romero, Facebook’s Director of Platform Enforcement and Litigation.
Cloaking is a scam technique that shows a company’s ad review system an innocuous product or service and delivers something completely different to the end-user. Facebook’s complaint stipulates that LeadCloak’s cloaking services were used to promote, among other violations, scams related to the coronavirus pandemic, deceptive diet pills, pharmaceuticals, cryptocurrency investment, and fake news.
For more context on how cloaking works, check out this video by Facebook’s Integrity Team Lead Rob Leathern.
Although Faсebook is now suing only one person, the social network hopes to also uncover and take additional enforcement measures against LeadCloak’s customers, including personal and ad accounts on Facebook and Instagram.
Court proceedings against cloaking scams can take a lot of time and are indeed pretty rare. However, it’s obvious that Facebook is now taking a harder stance against such practices, and this is probably not the last pandemic-related ad scam case we’ll see in the near future.