Adscend Media LLC also pays $100,000 in attorneys’ fees to state
SEATTLE – The owners of a California-based online marketing company have agreed to stop spamming Facebook users. The details were revealed today in a settlement – a consent decree – between Adscend Media LLC and the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.
“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,” said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna.
In January, McKenna’s office and Facebook sued Jeremy Bash and Fehzan Ali, the owners of Adscend Media LLC for initiating posts to Facebook pages that appeared to offer visitors an opportunity to view scandalous or provocative content. However, before being able to view the content, a series of required steps lured Facebook users into eventually visiting commercial websites. Other tactics included “likejacking,” in which Facebook users were tricked into clicking the “like” button, inadvertently spreading the sales pitches to friends.
Adscend, hired to promote products, in turn does business with “affiliates” who create attention-getting marketing messages. Too often, according to the Attorney General’s Office, those messages amounted to social media spam. Today’s settlement enjoins Adscend and its affiliates from initiating messages that contain misleading or false headers or those that hide the true identity of the sender. One of the tamer past messages declared, “This man took a picture of his face every day for 8 years!!” in order to trick Facebook users into clicking on links to reveal the content. In many instances, the content was never revealed.
“Under this agreement, Adscend-initiated messages should no longer appear to come from Facebook friends, when they actually originate from an affiliate trying to generate a sales commission from a commercial advertiser,” said Assistant Attorney General Paula Selis, who heads the office’s Consumer Protection High-Tech Unit.
Facebook last week settled its case against Adscend. The Attorney General’s Office settlement requires Adscend to include “clear and conspicuous identification the messages are advertisements or solicitations.” The defendants also agree to maintain a monitoring program, including random, daily analyses of what their affiliates are up to, ensuring that the company’s clients and partners do not violate the terms of the settlement. If affiliates are found to have deceptive “gateway” pages that trick Facebook users, Adscend must delete the advertisements and send a warning to the affiliate.
The defendants also agree to pay $100,000 in attorneys’ costs and fees. Violation of the consent decree, filed in US District Court in Seattle, will allow the Attorney General’s Office to seek additional remedies, including restitution, fees and costs, civil penalties and injunctive relief. The defendants do not admit liability in the settlement.
Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725