Facebook Filed Lawsuit Against Chinese Companies Selling Fake Accounts

Facebook filed a complaint against four Chinese companies for trademark infringement, selling fake accounts, and breach of contract.Photo from Stock Catalog / Flickr

Facebook, the world’s most famous social networking website, sues four Chinese companies for allegedly infringing its trademark, breaching its terms of service by creating and selling fake accounts, and other related offenses. The companies supposedly offer bulks of counterfeit Facebook and Instagram accounts said the complaint filed on March 1 at a San Francisco court.

Facebook called the move to prosecute the four companies as “one more step in our ongoing efforts to protect people on Facebook and Instagram.”

The lawsuit names three people and four companies based in the cities of Longyan and Shenzhen: 9 Xiu Network (Shenzhen) Science and Technology Company, 9 Xiu Feishu Science and Technology Company, 9 Xiufei Book Technology Co., and Home Network (Fujian) Technology Co.

The people named in the lawsuit were Wei Gao, Zhaochun Liu, and Zhaopin Liu. According to the complaint, Zhaopin Liu was the one who registered the infringed domain names and managed the website while Wei Gao acted as the Chief Executive Officer of 9 Xiu Network since 2017. Zaochun Liu was the previous CEO of the said company but is now handling and manages the received payments for the company.

Facebook alleges that the companies are offering various hardware and software services including bundles of fake Facebook and Instagram accounts as well as accounts from other platforms like Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google Voice. Furthermore, the complained claimed that the companies are advertising their services that are ‘designed to increase likes, comments, friends, and other activities.’

Promoting themselves as “Facebook China Regional Strategic Partner,” the companies were also selling premium accounts that they claimed as cannot be reported or suspended. The complaint names several websites, all of which appear to be offline, although TechCrunch says they were mostly functional when the lawsuit was filed on Friday.

In addition, Facebook is also suing the companies for trademark infringement citing their violation of cyber squatting laws – laws that protect companies from using similar and related domains to trick users – with confusing web addresses like “myfacebook.cc,” “facebook88.net,” and “infacebook.cc.” Since creating fake accounts are also prohibited under Facebook and Instagram’s terms of service, the companies are also sued for breach of contract.

Facebook asks the court to prohibit the companies from creating misleading web sites and fake accounts and asked an injunction that equals to all the profit all the companies have earned through their illegal operations plus an additional $100,000 for each infringing domain name.

“Fake and inauthentic accounts can be used for spam and phishing campaigns, misinformation campaigns, marketing scams, advertising fraud, and other fraud schemes which are profitable at scale,” the complaint said.

Paul Grewal, Facebook’s deputy general counsel of litigation, said in a post on the social network’s website that it acts forcefully to stamp out fraudulent behavior. In the first nine months of 2018, Facebook and Instagram collectively disabled more than 2.1 billion accounts, according to the complaint.

“Inauthentic activity has no place on our platform,” Mr. Grewal wrote. “That’s why we devote significant resources to detecting and stopping this behavior, including disabling millions of fake accounts every day.”

This problem is not only present on Facebook. During the 2016 US Presidential Elections, Russia’s Internet Research Agency was also reported to have farmed and operated thousands of fake Facebook and Twitter accounts in order to polarize public opinions and move to help Donald Trump win.

Only recently, Twitter has also launched a crackdown on fake accounts of pro-Howard Schultz supporters that are using his campaign to propagate alt-right ideologies such as posting neo-Nazi content, Muslim-ban call, among others.

“By filing the lawsuit, we hope to reinforce that this kind of fraudulent activity is not tolerated and that we’ll act forcefully to protect the integrity of our platform,” Facebook says in its statement.

Since it’s ban in 2009 from being accessed in China, Facebook has done a lot of work to tap the Chinese market.

“We are interested in setting up an innovation hub in Zhejiang to support Chinese developers, innovators and start-ups. We have done this in several parts of the world — France, Brazil, India, Korea — and our efforts would be focused on training and workshops that help these developers and entrepreneurs to innovate and grow,” a Facebook representative said. /apr

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