Accused Facebook Likejacker Settles Lawsuits

By David Cohen 

Adscend Media, the company sued by Facebook and the attorney general’s office in the state of Washington in January for a spamming scheme referred to as clickjacking or likejacking, has settled with both parties.

After reaching an undisclosed settlement with Facebook last week, CNET reported that Adscend Media agreed to a consent decree with the state’s attorney general’s office, saying it will stop spamming Facebook users and paying the state $100,000 in attorneys’ fees.

The state’s suit accused the company of likejacking, or tricking users of the social network into clicking on links that create messages on their Facebook newsfeeds that they liked a site, luring friends to click and repeat the process, and causing the links to go viral. Meanwhile, the site owners pay Adscend for the click referrals.

One scam outlined by CNET involved luring users with the promise of a video of someone’s ex-girlfriend. Users who clicked were prompted to verify their ages, which led to the posting of that link on their newsfeeds. Users were also redirected to the sites of Adscend affiliates.

According to CNET, the consent decree specifies that Adscend can no longer initiate messages with misleading or false headers, or those that conceal the sender’s identity, and the company must include “clear and conspicuous” identification that its messages are advertisements and solicitations.

Adscend must also maintain a monitoring program, CNET reported, including random daily analysis of its affiliates.

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna issued the following statement:

Today’s settlement puts a stop to Adscend’s likejacking and other misleading tactics that led Facebook users to fork over personal information or buy subscription services from sites that appeared to be recommended by friends.

At a press conference in January announcing the dual lawsuits against Adscend, McKenna said the company generated $20 million per year from its clickjacking schemes, but in claiming a partial victory, Adscend Chief Executive Officer Fehzan Ali called that figure “insanely inaccurate,” CNET reported, adding, “Our total revenues are a fraction of that.”

Ali told CNET the conditions of the consent decree mirrored actions his company had already taken, concluding, “We’re extremely satisfied with the end result.”

Mark Rosenberg, a lawyer for Adscend, brought politics into the mix, saying the lawsuit was motivated by the fact that McKenna is running for governor of Washington and calling the company’s $100,000 payment a business decision, adding, “You cut your losses and move forward.”

Assistant Attorney General Paula Selis, head of the office’s Consumer Protection High-Tech Unit and lead attorney on the case, replied, “This has nothing to do with an election year,” telling CNET the sole motivation for pursuing the case was to protect Washington residents from spam.

Readers: Do you think the results of the lawsuits by Facebook and the Washington state attorney general’s office against Adscend Media will curb clickjacking, likejacking, and other spam on Facebook, or was this just a drop in the bucket?

State of Washington v. Adscend Media Consent Decree

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