Facebook Just Threw a Monkey Wrench at a Big-Time Spam Ring

The accounts involved were located in countries including Bangladesh, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia

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Facebook announced the disruption of a major spam operation that had been filling the social network with fake likes and comments.

Shabnam Shaik, a technical program manager on Facebook’s protect and care team, provided the details in a Facebook Security note, saying that the accounts involved were located in countries including Bangladesh, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia:

Today we are taking another step to disrupt a spam operation that we have been combating for six months. It is made up of inauthentic likes and comments that appear to come from accounts located in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries. We found that most of this activity was generated not through traditional mass account-creation methods, but by more sophisticated means that try to mask the fact that the accounts are part of the same coordinated operation. They used tricks to avoid detection, including redirecting their traffic through “proxies” that disguised their location.

The apparent intent of the campaign was to deceptively gain new friend connections by liking and interacting primarily with popular publisher pages on our platform, after which point they would send spam. We observed that the bulk of these accounts became dormant after liking a number of pages, suggesting that they had not been mobilized yet to actually make connections and send spam to those people.

Our systems were able to identify a large portion of this illegitimate activity—and to remove a substantial number of inauthentic likes. We also received help from our partners, who alerted us to suspicious activity that helped us identify additional accounts that were part of the same campaign. As we remove the rest of the inauthentic likes, we expect that 99 percent of impacted pages with more than 10,000 likes will see a drop of less than 3 percent. None of these likes were the result of paid ads from the affected pages.

By disrupting the campaign now, we expect that we will prevent this network of spammers from reaching its end goal of sending inauthentic material to large numbers of people.

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david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.