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Facebook files lawsuit against cloaked ads for COVID-19 scams

The suit alleges that a user with the moniker LeadCloak broke Facebook's terms by providing ad-cloaking software for coronavirus scams and fake news on Facebook and Instagram.

Graphic by Pixabay; illustration by CNET

Facebook announced a new lawsuit Thursday against a user operating under the name LeadCloak. The suit, filed in federal court in California, alleges that LeadCloak provided ad-cloaking software designed to sneak fake news and scams related to COVID-19, cryptocurrency, diet pills and more past Facebook and Instagram's automated ad review process.

"Cloaking is a malicious technique that impairs ad review systems by concealing the nature of the website linked to an ad," Facebook said in a statement. "When ads are cloaked, a company's ad review system may see a website showing an innocuous product such as a sweater, but a user will see a different website, promoting deceptive products and services which, in many cases, are not allowed."

Facebook added that it has taken additional enforcement measures against LeadCloak and customers and says the federal suit will help it identify more of LeadCloak's customers.

Facebook says the lawsuit is the latest in a series of actions aimed at stemming platform abuse on its sites and services, which also include Instagram and WhatsApp.

LeadCloak did not immediately respond to a request for comment.