Advertising company settles over alleged Facebook 'likejacking' scam

Adscend Media wil pay $100,000 in court fees; it settled a second lawsuit with Facebook last week on undisclosed terms

The Washington State Attorney General's office reached a settlement on Monday with an advertising company it alleged baited and spammed Facebook users with salacious content in order to direct them to unrelated advertising.

Adscend Media, an affiliate marketing company, and managers Jeremy Bash and Fehzan Ali agreed not to spam Facebook users and pay US$100,000 in court and attorney fees, according to the settlement.

As part of the deal, reached in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Adscend Media did not admit liability. It must put in place a monitoring program to ensure it does not violate the settlement and closely watch the earnings of its affiliates. Company officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

The attorney general's office alleged in January that Adscend Media's spamming generated up to $20 million a year.

Facebook also filed a separate lawsuit against Adscend Media at that time; that suit was settled last week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Court documents did not provide detail on the settlement.

The attorney general's lawsuit alleged violations of the CAN-SPAM Act and two Washington state laws banning obscuring the source of an e-mail and prohibiting unfair or deceptive business practices.

Adscend Media was accused of a couple of different scams. In one, it was accused of taking advantage of a browser vulnerability that could make Facebook's "Like" Button not visible. The button was overlayed with photos or other "provocative" content in order to trick a user into clicking "Like."

The supposed content did not exist, and the user was funneled to advertising services from which Adscend Media received referral fees, the lawsuit alleged. Users were also asked to divulge personal information, it was alleged.

Adscend was also accused of clickjacking, a method in which a link is automatically clicked without user intervention, resulting in content involuntarily posted to a user's news feed.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

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