Ad Traffic Firm Settles Over Facebook 'Likejacking'

May 9, 2012 2:15 PM PST

SEATTLE — A Washington state company accused of running a $20 million Facebook marketing operation has settled with the state in a consent decree, agreeing to stop spamming users with a practice known as "likejacking."

With Lifejacking, users are tricked into "liking" pages that are actually external advertisements.

The state Attorney General's office filed suit in January against Adscend Media LLC, saying it scammed Facebook users into clicking on links that made them automatically "like" a page.

Those links were then forwarded to users' Facebook friends, creating a cycle of bogus "likes" that are actually advertisements.

The Attorney General's office said that Adscend Media "create and provide their affiliates with technology that is designed to deceive Facebook users into visiting websites that pay defendants for the referral traffic."

"Defendants encourage and pay their affiliates to create Facebook Pages that are titled and designed to 'bait' users into visiting other websites. These bait pages appear in posts that seemingly originate from Facebook users' friends."

Adscend Media used "salacious" pictures and included lines such as "[Video] OMG! See What Happens to his Ex Girlfriend" or "Cannot BELIEVE a 2 year old is doing THIS...You will be SHOCKED when you see the video. Simply 'Like' this page to see the video."

About 80 percent of Adscend Media's revenue is obtained through Facebook advertising, with gross monthly revenue of up to $1.2 million, the state said in an amended complaint.

"As an example of defendants’ ability to obtain advertising traffic, in February 2011, their affiliates tricked 280,214 Facebook users into visiting their 'locked content' pages through spam solicitations," the state said.

With the consent decree, Adscend Media must pay the state $100,000 in attorneys fees, is restrained from misleading advertising activities and must maintain a monitoring program, according to U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman's order, which was signed off on Monday.

Adscend, in a statement, said that the company feels vindicated as a result of the settlement but that "it was our contention from Day 1 that these claims were absolutely and unequivocally false."

"The settlement ... requires Adscend to comply with CAN-SPAM — something the company and every other entity that sends commercial emails is required to do — and to continue its affiliate-monitoring program."

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