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Facebook newsfeeds hit with animal-cruelty, Bieber spam

A spam attack causes many Facebook newsfeeds to be swamped by troubling images, including Justin Bieber photoshopped into sexual situations and violence against animals. Could it be Anonymous? Or merely a wannabee?

It's not comfortable for the home of FarmVille to be suddenly adorned with indigestible pictures of animal cruelty.

It also does little positive for Facebook's image of a safe and private bulletin board when there suddenly appear images of Justin Bieber doing things that might loosely be associated with fathering children.

And yet, as ZDNet revealed, newsfeeds of ordinary people have been positively awash in negative imagery.

It's hard to know just how much of it has been displayed. Technically, some might refer to this as gore-porn-linkspam. Others might prefer to think of it as just another sign that nothing is sacred, not even Facebook.

Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The security hounds at Sophos have been diligent in discovering just what sort of globally chilling gore has been pasted on Facebook.

They have heard word of awful shots of violence against people and animals and various teeny-porn spoof images of Justin Bieber and other famous people. (What a ruckus there might be if one of those shots was actually real.)

The place to bemoan this troubling development has, naturally, been Twitter. Just a cursory look at the hashtag #facebookporn shows that some people claim they will close their Facebook accounts. Others found it all quite amusing at first. Now the joy has paled.

Still, Twitterer Eva Rachel offered: "facebook is gross, im gonna go back to myspace. #myspace #facebookporn."

John Christel also took to Twitter to muse: "I feel left out by this whole #facebookporn thing. Not one inappropriate image so far. And believe me, I've looked."

Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

For its part, Facebook is among the unamused.

A Facebook spokesman told CNET: "Protecting the people who use Facebook from spam and malicious content is a top priority for us. Recently, we experienced a spam attack that exploited a browser vulnerability. Our team responded quickly and we have eliminated most of the spam caused by this attack. We are now working to improve our systems to better defend against similar attacks in the future.

As to what actually occurred to cause this wallpaper of woe, the Facebook spokesman said: "During this spam attack users were tricked into pasting and executing malicious Javascript in their browser URL bar causing them to unknowingly share this offensive content. No user data or accounts were compromised during this attack."

Users hate to be tricked. Facebook would never trick them. Now these devious, mindless porn-peddlers have upset the mood of baby pictures, ego-expression, and frantic date-seeking.

Facebook is working hard to alleviate the sewage, including what it calls "backend measures." The company also offered three tips to forearm yourself against the idea that people are cruel to animals and that Justin Bieber is anything but pure:

1. Never copy and paste unknown code into your address bar. 2. Always use an up-to-date browser. 3. Use the Report links on the site to flag suspicious behavior or content on your or your friends accounts.

Speculation will proliferate as to who might be the mischievous miscreants. Some will, no doubt, wonder about Anonymous. Having threatened (or not) to bring down Facebook on November 5, there will be a suspicion that there was merely a '1' missing before the '5'.

Still, I find it hard to believe that Anonymous would stoop to this.

Indeed, Facebook told CNET it knows who is responsible. The company added: We are already working with our legal teams to ensure appropriate consequences follow." Which might, one imagine, at least entail some closed Facebook accounts.

Facebook seems sure that the attack began some time in the middle of last week. There is no sense of just how many people were affected, or whether any were taken to hospital.

I wonder, though, how many people found it vaguely normal and just went on with their day.

Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET