Facebook on Thursday filed suit in California against one organization and two individuals for engaging in ad fraud on the social media platform.
The defendants, Hong Kong-based ILikeAd Media International Company Ltd. and its employees, Chen Xiao Cong and Huang Tao, tricked Facebook users into installing malware that provided them with the ability to compromise people’s accounts.
Using the hijacked Facebook accounts, the defendants ran ads that promoted items such as counterfeit goods and diet pills.
Facebook filed the lawsuit to hold the Chinese company accountable for creating the malware, deceiving individuals into installing it, and then compromising people’s accounts to run the deceptive ads through them.
In some cases, the defendants used images of celebrities (“celeb bait”) to entice people into clicking on ads, the social platform says.
In other instances, they engaged in a practice known as cloaking, where they deliberately disguised the destination of the link in their ads. Specifically, the version of the ad’s landing page displayed to Facebook’s systems was different from the version delivered to Facebook users.
Cloaking schemes, the company explains, are often sophisticated and well organized, and holding the entities behind them accountable isn’t easy. Thus, there have been few legal actions taken against such schemes.
The social platform says it has refunded victims of this scheme and also helped them secure their accounts.
“To protect Facebook users and disrupt these types of schemes, we will continue our work to detect malicious behavior directed towards our platform and enforce against violations of our Terms and Policies,” the company also notes.