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Scandal ad slingers cough up $100k in 'Facebook clickjack' case

Marketing biz 'earning $1.2m a month' settles out of court

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A marketing firm accused of running campaigns via a web of unscrupulous affiliates – who flooded Facebook with spam – has agreed to clean up its network. The business's owners settled a lawsuit brought against them and have denied any wrongdoing.

Delaware-based Adscend Media allegedly made $1.2m (£743k) per month1 from messages supposedly offering "scandalous or provocative content".

In reality the attached links often led towards sites that coaxed punters into handing over personal information as part of "online surveys" which then failed to dish the promised dirt.

These polls were allegedly also promoted by the use of "likejacking" in which Facebook users were tricked into clicking on "like" buttons, inadvertently punting sales pitches at their friends.

The allegations prompted a lawsuit by the Washington State Attorney General's Office against Adscend and its co-owners – Jeremy Bash of Huntington, West Virginia and Fehzan Ali, of Austin, Texas – in January.

The defendants settled the case this week by paying $100,000 (£61k) in attorneys’ costs and fees and agreeing to an injunction prohibiting unethical marketing behaviour - the court decree is here [PDF]. The defendants also agreed to pay for independent monitoring of the firm's affiliate network.

A statement by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office can be found here.

Last week Facebook dropped a separate lawsuit against Adscend Media.

A detailed discussion of how clickjacking works, along with a discussion of the Adscend Media settlement, can be found in a post on Sophos' Naked Security blog here. ®

Lootnote

1 Adscend counters that Washington's estimates are grossly overestimated without saying what its real revenues were nor admitting any liability on its own part. It blames rogue affiliates for the offending messages.

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