Image: Obama White House Archives

Facebook, in a news release today, announced that it is filing a lawsuit in California, against an Indian advertising company by the name of ‘LeadCloak’. Facebook says that the company’s founder Basant Gajjar, was reportedly providing cloaking software and services to clients, with the purpose of deceiving Facebook’s ads reviewing system.

Cloaking is a malicious technique that impairs ad review systems by concealing the nature of the website linked to an ad. 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.

In a statement released to the media, Facebook said, “Today, Facebook filed a lawsuit in federal court in California against Basant Gajjar. Using the name “LeadCloak,” Gajjar violated Facebook Terms and Policies by providing cloaking software and services designed to circumvent automated ad review systems”. Interestingly, till last year, Gajjar was seen doing public webinars on ‘Cloaking’ and there was apparently no action from Facebook at that point of time.

Gajjar was found running deceptive ads on the platform for a fairly large clientele. According to Facebook, Gajjar used the same platform to run deceptive ads across multiple other platforms, including those of Google, WordPress, Oath among others.

In times like these, when fighting an information pandemic has become equally (if not more?) important as fighting the real coronavirus pandemic, Facebook’s action holds importance. The platform was recently accused by ConsumerReports for allowing it to run ads that were spreading misinformation about coronavirus on the platform. The ads were later removed by ConsumerReports, but no action was initiated on Facebook’s end.

In addition to this filing against Basant Gajjar and his company LeadCloak, Facebook has taken technical enforcement measures against the company and accounts that they have determined to have used their software, including disabling personal and ad accounts on Facebook and Instagram.

The lawsuit will aim at uncovering Leadcloak’s client base, to further take similar actions against them.