Facebook, Adscend Settle Clickjacking Case

SpamCrown-1102aFacebook has settled a clickjacking lawsuit it brought against affiliate marketing company Adscend Media, according to court papers filed last week. Details of the settlement are confidential.

A separate lawsuit against Adscend, brought by Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, remains pending in federal court in Seattle. The Attorney General's office filed an amended complaint in that matter on Monday.

The litigation stems from allegations that Adscend affiliates lured Facebook users into filling out marketing surveys by promising them the chance to view "salacious content" -- like a clip with the caption, "[Video] OMG! See What Happens to his Ex Girlfriend.”

Adscend affiliates allegedly sent messages promoting those clips to Facebook users, but made it seem like the messages came from users' friends. People who tried to view the content were intercepted by a widget requesting age verification information, the Washington Attorney General alleges. Clicking on those widgets ultimately took users to surveys that asked people for their names, email addresses and other personal information; in some cases, the landing pages also asked people to make purchases. Clicking on the widgets also spread the original message to users' Facebook friends.

Adscend got paid whenever users provided their personal information or made purchases, the complaint alleges. At one point, Adscend allegedly garnered almost $1 million a month from surveys filled out by Facebook users.

The Washington Attorney General contends that Adscend violated the federal CAN-SPAM law by working with affiliates that mislead Facebook users about the origin of the messages, as well as their content.

CAN-SPAM prohibits marketers from misleading email recipients about the identity of messages' senders or subject matter. But it's not clear whether the judge presiding over this matter will decide that the 2003 law applies to messages posted on Facebook.

The question came up in a previous court case -- a lawsuit by Facebook against MaxBounty. In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel in the Northern District of California ruled that CAN-SPAM laws apply to messages placed on Facebook users' pages. But the case subsequently settled before an appeals court ruled on the matter, according to court records.

Adscend CEO Fehzan Ali declined to comment on the settlement with Facebook, except to say the company was "very satisfied with the end result."

As for the Washington case, Ali said that he was "very confident that the end result is going to be extremely positive."

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