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Facebook flings clickjack spam lawsuit at ad-slingers

Social network teams up with Washington State to hound marketing firm

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Facebook and US state of Washington have filed lawsuits against marketing firm Adscend Media over alleged clickjacking and spam practices, as the social networking giant finally gets tough with scammers operating on the site.

The lawsuits were filed against the co-owners of Delaware-based Adscend in the US District Court in Seattle (PDF) and a federal court in the Northern District of California. They allege violation of the CAN-SPAM Act which prohibits the sending of misleading electronic communications. Adscend was fingered for clickjacking and other scams which netted its owners up to $1.2m a month at their height.

Such scams on Facebook work by luring the user into clicking on a link with the promise of viewing some particularly shocking or salacious content, like a semi-naked celebrity or an animal with two heads.

Before the user can view the content, however, they are asked to complete an online survey where they will be encouraged to fill in their personal information, or they could be persuaded to sign up to an expensive mobile service.

In the specific case of clickjacking, also known as likejacking, they will also be tricked into clicking on a hidden ‘Like’ button which then spams the scam out to all of their friends.

“We don’t ‘like’ schemes that illegally trick Facebook users into giving up personal information or paying for unwanted subscription services through spam,” said Washington State attorney general Rob McKenna.

“We applaud Facebook for devoting significant technical and legal resources to finding and stopping scams as soon as possible – and often before they even start. We’re proud to join forces in order to protect Washington consumers.”

Facebook also issued a strongly worded statement following the joint press conference the two scam-busting parties held at the social networking firm’s Seattle office.

“Facebook’s security professionals have made tremendous strides against this particular form of attack and we are intent on eradicating it completely. We will continue to use all tools at our disposal to ensure that scammers do not profit from misusing Facebook’s services,” said the firm’s chief litigator, Craig Clark.

Despite the tough talk, however, Facebook hasn’t often used the significant bundles of cash at its disposal to pursue scammers through the courts.

A notable exception came in October 2010, when a federal court awarded it a massive $360.5m in a case against prolific spammer Philip Porembski. ®

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