Over the past year, Facebook has been gradually ramping up its legal action against companies that violate its terms of service, in varying form.
In the past, Facebook had taken its own, internal action in such cases, but had stopped short of pursuing legal recourse. But following the revelations of Cambridge Analytica, it seems that The Social Network has been intent on establishing legal precedent over such activity, in order to both penalize those breaking the rules, and disincentivize others who may be considering the same.
And this week, Facebook has once again taken aim at two specific violations, with new legal proceedings over the collection of user data via Facebook and the sale of fake engagement.
As per Facebook:
"Today, as part of our ongoing efforts to enforce our Terms of Service and protect against abuse, we filed separate lawsuits in the UK and the US. This is the first time Facebook is pursuing a lawsuit against an app developer in the UK as well as seeking an audit and an injunction to reinforce our ban against the developer’s use of our platform."
The UK lawsuit relates to a company called 'MobiBurn', which, Facebook alleges, collected user data from Facebook, and other social media platforms, by paying app developers to install a malicious Software Development Kit within their apps.
"When people installed those apps on their devices, MobiBurn collected information from the devices and requested data from Facebook, including the person’s name, time zone, email address and gender. MobiBurn did not compromise Facebook, instead they used the malicious SDK on the users’ devices to collect information."
The case is similar to legal action Facebook launched in December last year against a company that used Facebook posts and ads to trick users into downloading malware, in order to steal their personal information. In both cases, the violating action was conducted via Facebook's tools, not on Facebook itself, but if Facebook can establish a legal baseline for such conduct, it can use that as precedent to punish others in future.
The other case relates to a fake engagement company named 'Nakrutka' which Facebook says:
"Used a network of bots and automation software to distribute fake likes, comments, views and followers on Instagram."
Facebook says that the company was behind several websites which offered fake engagement, though it hasn't specified which. And there are a lot of them - a simple Google search for 'buy Instagram Likes' still produces a lot of results, even though its both illegal and against Facebook's terms.
Again, by ramping up its action against such, Facebook can establish clearer boundaries on what's acceptable, while also setting parameters around penalties.
This is a key area - as Facebook becomes a bigger part of our everyday lives, including business transactions, and increasingly, eCommerce, it needs to ensure that its users feel safe conducting such activity online.
Eliminating scammers and fakes is central to this effort, and through its increased legal action, Facebook can further highlight the penalties of being involved in such, which should reduce the business incentive for such.
That's a better outcome for all involved, making Facebook and Instagram marketing more transparent and trustworthy.