SEATTLE (CN) – A company Washington authorities accused of running a $20 million Facebook scam settled with the state and agreed it would stop spamming users with a practice called “likejacking,” where users are tricked into “liking” pages that are actually external advertisements.
The State of Washington sued Adscend Media in January, claiming the company duped Facebook users into clicking links that made them automatically “like” a page. The links were then forwarded to users’ Facebook friends, creating a cycle of phony “likes” that are actually advertisements.
“Defendants create and provide their affiliates with technology that is designed to deceive Facebook users into visiting websites that pay Defendants for the referral traffic,” the state’s amended complaint said.
It continues: “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.”
The titles for bait pages are familiar to many Facebook users, often promising an alluring video or photo.
The state claimed Adscend used titles like “[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.”
State Attorney General Rob McKenna said in a January press conference that Adscend had reaped $20 million from the scams, but the government did not recoup any of that money in a settlement reached Monday.
Adscend must pay the state $100,000 in attorney’s fees and is prohibited from continuing their misleading advertising activities, according to U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman’s order.
Additionally, the company must maintain a monitoring program with employees making sure that no suspicious activity is occurring.