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Facebook cracks down on sites that impersonate its services

The social network sues domain name registrar Namecheap.

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Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook said Thursday that it's suing Namecheap and Whoisguard for providing website addresses that impersonate the social network and can be used for frauds and scams.

The lawsuit is part of the company's efforts to crack down on domain names that aren't actually tied to Facebook and the apps it owns but that appear to be. Such misleading domain names include instagrambusinesshelp.com, facebo0k-login.com and whatsappdownload.site. In a similar lawsuit filed in October, Facebook sued web hosts OnlineNIC and ID Shield over trademark infringement and cybersquatting.

"These domain names can trick people into believing they are legitimate and are often used for phishing, fraud and scams," Christen Dubois, Facebook's director and associate general counsel for intellectual property litigation, said in a blog post.

The lawsuit, filed in Arizona, also accuses Namecheap of trademark infringement. It alleges that Namecheap's service Whoisguard registered or used 45 domain names that could deceive people into thinking they're associated with Facebook. The social network alleges that Whoisguard declined to cooperate after Facebook asked for more information about these names. Facebook said it sent notices to Whoisguard between October 2018 and February 2020.

A spokesman for Namecheap said in a statement that the company will take action against abuse of its services but that a court order would be required to provide private user information.

"Facebook may be willing to tread all over their customers' privacy on their own platform, and in this case it appears they want other companies to do it for them, with their own customers," the Namecheap spokesman said.

Originally published March 5, 11:01 a.m. PT
Update, 3:17 p.m.: Includes statement from Namecheap.