Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna and Facebook have joined forces to sue a company they claim is violating a federal anti-spam statute. It may be the first coordinated private-public legal attack against an alleged spammer.
McKenna — who is running for the Republican nomination for governor in the Evergreen state — and Facebook say Adscend Media makes money by "click-jacking" and deceptively sending viewers to advertiser websites via a friend's social-media feed.
Click-jacking can occur when you "like" someone's Facebook post and click to see an attached video, but are required to share personal data before seeing the promised content. Adscend collects from advertisers who benefit by capturing the eyeballs of unsuspecting viewers.
McKenna filed his lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle, while Facebook lodged its lawsuit in federal court in California. Both lawsuits seek injunctions, damages and attorneys fees from Adscend and its owners, who live in other parts of the country. Adscend Media has declined so far to comment on the suits, which claim the company violates the federal Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act, as well as state commercial email and consumer protection laws.
Facebook attorneys said the social-media giant — which appears on the verge of going public this week — has fixed the vulnerability that permitted the Adsecend tactic. But they warn that spammers and their targets are in an "arms war" where tactics continuously evolve.
The blog Splash reports a Facebook user can be ensnared in a "scammy network" without even hitting a "like" button. "Insidious software code can activate the button all by itself."
Splash writer Renay San Miguel notes "individuals can always check out Facecrooks.com, which tracks the latest Facebook scams, or Club Norton [which provides] basic information on protecting yourself while on social media."
San Miguel ends his blog post by asking whether Facebook's pro-user legal action is enough to "inoculate Mark Zuckerberg's company against continuing scrutiny over its privacy policies?"
A more localized question is why Oregon isn't part of this private-public legal effort instead of engaging in an awkward public quarrel over how it taxes Facebook's facilities here?