Facebook Inc. and its photo-sharing app Instagram sued four companies and three people based in China for allegedly creating and selling fake online accounts, likes and followers that were used for misinformation campaigns and other scams, calling it “one more step in our ongoing efforts to protect people on Facebook and Instagram.” It’s an unusual move for Facebook, which says it already purges “millions” of fake accounts every day.
As per the reports by The Verge The lawsuit names three people and four companies based in the cities of Longyan and Shenzhen: 9 Xiu Network (Shenzhen) Science and Technology Company, 9 Xiu Feishu Science and Technology Company, 9 Xiufei Book Technology Co., and Home Network (Fujian) Technology Co.
According to the complaint, these companies offer a variety of hardware and software services including bundles of fake accounts for Facebook and Instagram as well as other platforms like Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google Voice. They also allegedly advertise services “designed to increase likes, comments, friends, and other activity,” and they’ve promoted themselves with the made-up label “Facebook China Regional Strategic Partner,” offering premium accounts that supposedly couldn’t be suspended. The complaint names several websites, all of which appear to be offline, although TechCrunch says they were mostly functional when the lawsuit was filed on March 1st.
This isn’t the first lawsuit regarding fake accounts and online engagement. Amazon has sued people who allegedly spam pages with five-star ratings, and government agencies have recently started going after companies that buy or sell fake accounts and reviews.