Facebook hits two app developers with lawsuit

The legal action, brought over alleged click injection fraud, is said to be among the first of its kind

Facebook announced this week that it is suing two Asia-based Android app developers over alleged ad fraud.

The social network alleges that LionMobi, based in Hong Kong, and JediMobi, based in Singapore, made apps available on the Google Play store that planted malware on people’s smartphones with the aim of generating phony clicks on ads that appeared on people’s phones.

“LionMobi and JediMobi generated unearned payouts from Facebook for misrepresenting that a real person had clicked on the ads,” said the social network.

The ads were part of Facebook’s Audience Network, which enables advertisers to extend the reach of their Facebook and Instagram campaigns to thousands of other websites and apps. Facebook has expelled both developers from the program and refunded the advertisers who had been affected by the alleged fraud.

Facebook didn’t disclose in its blog post how much revenue it believes the app developers have made. According to the company’s court complaint cited by Bloomberg, however, one of the apps generated more than 40 million ad impressions and 1.7 million clicks through Audience Network over a three-month period at the end of 2018.

“At times, the malware was delivered in the form of ‘updates’ to the apps and, after October 2018, the malware was included directly in the apps,” reads the complaint.

One of LionMobi’s apps as available in Google Play as of May 22nd, 2019 (source: web.archive.org)

By TechCrunch’s count, apps developed by LionMobi and JediMobi amassed more than 207 million installs before they were booted from Google Play.

Meanwhile, LionMobi rejected the accusations and said that it “never obtained any illegal income by so-called click injection fraud on the Facebook platform”.

The firm also told Bloomberg that its app revenue came from third-party software development kits (SDKs) that are common to mainstream ad platforms. LionMobi also said that it had learned about some of the SDKs on its apps being potentially in breach of Facebook’s policies, which prompted it to remove the SDKs.

JediMobi has yet to comment on the issue. The two companies launched several apps each, including apps marketed as a battery tool, a phone cleaner, and a calculator.

Earlier in 2019, Facebook sued a number of companies and individuals in China and New Zealand for selling fake accounts, likes and followers on Facebook itself and Instagram.

8 Aug 2019 – 05:05PM

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