Facebook sues tech firm for selling software that skirts ad review

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Facebook has charged in court a small US-based software firm and its lead engineer for creating and selling a software that can mask malicious ads and redirects users to websites that are different from what is being monitored by the social media.

The lawsuit was filed against LeadCloak and its founder Basant Gajjar for selling the “cloaking” software to scammers that fool the ad-review systems both on Facebook and Instagram.

In a statement by Jessica Romero, Facebook’s director of platform enforcement and litigation, Gajjar violated their company’s Terms and Policies by offering cloaking software and services that are designed to blatantly bypass through automated ad-review measures.

Through cloaking, the ad-review system which is typically automated for faster processing, can only see an inconspicuous product or service being hosted on a website.

On the other end, the users are exposed to a different website that violates Facebook guidelines at the least, or scams related to coronavirus, cryptocurrency, pharmaceuticals, and even fake news. 

Aside from Facebook and Instagram, LeadCloak’s software was also able to circumvent systems placed by Google, Oath, WordPress, and Shopify to name a few.

As an immediate action, all personal and ad accounts that used cloaking services are disabled, with plans to also take additional enforcement actions against LeadCloak customers.

“This action is one of a number of efforts we are taking to protect our users and hold people who abuse our systems accountable in Court… some of these cloaked websites also included images of celebrities,” Romero said.

Two months ago, Facebook also filed a federal lawsuit against a data analytics company based in the state of New Jersey called “OneAudience” when it allegedly accessed and collected data by paying app developers to install Software Development Kit (SDK) in their apps.

The crackdown on malicious software is fueled by Facebook’s reward program for people who report misuse of data by app developers. Dubbed as Data Abuse Bounty, the program will provide monetary compensation even up to $40,000 for proof of cases against Facebook platform apps that collect and transfer user data to another party for profit.

Along with other tech companies, Facebook has been ramping up security efforts during the coronavirus outbreak. Aside from hunting down attackers and scammers that use the platform for malicious purposes, it is also being active in moving reliable sources of information closer to its users’ fingertips.

In the case of Covid-19 related groups, members are exposed to educational pop-ups that redirect to credible health organization websites. There are also surveys in the platform as part of Data for Good to help nonprofits and researchers in building Disease Prevention Maps.

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