Facebook lawsuit accuses company of selling fake engagement on Instagram

Facebook lawsuit accuses company of selling fake engagement on Instagram

Facebook this week sued a New Zealand company and three individuals for selling fake engagement — including likes, views and followers — on Instagram. 

This is the second lawsuit the tech giant has filed against a company selling fake likes and accounts on social media.

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Facebook, in the Thursday filing with a Northern California federal district court, accused the defendants of operating an "unlawful business" using the website Likesocial.co, which "artificially inflates the 'likes,' 'views,' and 'followers' of Instagram accounts" using networks of bots.

"Through their business, Defendants interfered and continue to interfere with Instagram’s service, create an inauthentic experience for Instagram users, and attempt to fraudulently influence Instagram users for their own enrichment," Facebook, which owns Instagram, said in the filing. 

Facebook is alleging that a company called Social Media Series Limited, run by Arend Nollen, Leon Hedges and David Pasanen, has violated Instagram's guidelines and California law with its business. 

Likesocial.co's website is currently blank, with a notice that it is "currently running maintenance on our services." A cached version of its page from the beginning of April advertises its business using the banner, "Buy Instagram Likes. Delivered Automatically." 

"Get Instagram likes on every new post and get Instagram Followers," the company's cached home page reads. "Our service detects new uploads within seconds then sends you real Instagram likes and views automatically." 

The company is registered in New Zealand. 

Facebook has been seeking to clamp down on the cottage industry of companies that sell fake engagement for users seeking to bolster their brands. 

Facebook in a blog post on Thursday said it has "previously suspended accounts associated" with Nollen, Hedges and Pasanen. According to the court filing, the company sent the trio cease and desist letters as they continued the like-selling business under different names for years.  

"However, their activity persisted," Facebook wrote in the post. "Today’s lawsuit is one more step in our ongoing efforts to protect people and prevent inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram." 

Facebook previously sued multiple Chinese companies for selling fake accounts across multiple social media platforms.