Facebook filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Thursday against Basant Gajjar, alleging that he violated the social network’s terms and policies by providing cloaking software and services under the name LeadCloak that was designed to circumvent the company’s automated ad review systems and run deceptive ads on Facebook and Instagram.
LeadCloak’s software targeted other technology companies including Google, Oath, Shopify and WordPress, Facebook director of platform enforcement and litigation Jessica Romero said in a Newsroom post.
LeadCloak’s homepage makes little effort to conceal these activities, saying, “LeadCloak is a powerful cloaker that you can use to easily cloak various ad networks to get targeted traffic to your web sites and offer pages.”
Romero added that Facebook disabled personal and ad accounts on Facebook and Instagram that it determined used LeadCloak’s software, and it intends to continue efforts to identify LeadCloak’s customers and take additional enforcement actions against them.
LeadCloak had not responded to a request for comment at the time of this post.
Romero wrote, “Cloaking is a malicious technique that impairs ad review systems by concealing the nature of the website linked to an ad. When ads are cloaked, a company’s ad review system may see a website showing an innocuous product such as a sweater, but a user will see a different website, promoting deceptive products and services, which, in many cases, are not allowed.”
She continued, “In this case, LeadCloak’s software was used to conceal websites featuring scams related to Covid-19, cryptocurrency, pharmaceuticals, diet pills and fake news pages. Some of these cloaked websites also included images of celebrities.”
Director of product management for business integrity Rob Leathern added in a tweet, “Given that these deceptive and malicious practices broadly affect our industry, we’d also like to work more closely with other companies to share threat intelligence and thereby react more quickly and create accountability/consequences for these bad actors.”