Facebook sues Asian developers over malware on Android apps

Yolanda Curtis
August 9, 2019

Facebook said Tuesday it's suing two app developers in Asia for making money from advertising fraud, highlighting how the social network is cracking down on abuse on the platform. The two apps, JediMobi based out of Hong Kong and LionMobi created by a Singapore based developer used to be part of Facebook's Audience Network, which enabled advertisers to place their ads on the app.

So how does this affect Facebook? Once a user had installed one of the apps on their phone, the malware would generate fake user clicks on Facebook ads, giving the impression that "real" people had clicked on the ads and tricking Facebook's advertising network to pay out for those clicks.

The companies "generated unearned payouts from Facebook for misrepresenting that a real person had clicked on the ads".

Facebook is going after more shady app developers for abusing its platform. Basically, they relied on apps fraudulently generating ad clicks without the user's consent and therefore, artificially increase the ad revenue. The company has sued two apps developed from the countries, Hong Kong and Singapore based.

Interestingly, Google is yet to respond to the development considering that both happen to be Android apps hosted at PlayStore.

CNET reached out to Facebook about how many people and advertisers were affected. The supposed antivirus app generated fake clicks via Google's AdMob. Apps from the two developers can still be found on Google Play. They are definitely taking app developers that break their rules a lot more seriously.

While LionMobi in a company email, said that the company has never obtained any illegal income and has always adhered to Facebook's advertising policies, there was no comment from JediMobi.

UPDATE: Aug. 7, 2019, 9:43 a.m. PDT In a statement, LionMobi, developer of the "Power Clean" app, blamed a "third-party SDK" for causing its app to break Facebook's rules.

Through a practice known as "click injection fraud", one of the apps generated more than 40 million ad impressions and 1.7 million clicks through Facebook's Audience Network over a three-month period at the end of a year ago, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in San Francisco federal court.

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