Spam Spreads to Social Media

Internet piracyE-mail providers such as Gmail have significantly improved their spam filters in the past several years. These advances have made unwanted commercial messages disappear from e-mail inboxes. But spammers have been working on innovations of their own.

The people behind spam have started targeting Facebook, Pinterest and other social media sites. Most of these sites have not prepared for the onslaught of false accounts and deceptive messages. The problem is a large and growing one. Mark Risher, the CEO of a company that creates spam protection software, estimates that nearly 40% of the profiles on such sites were created by spammers. The amount of spam messages sent via social media sites has doubled in the past six months.

Spammers take advantage of the features that allow users to share content. They create false links that send people to advertisements for products such as questionable weight loss plans, prescription drugs and get-rich-quick schemes.

Social media sites are starting to fight back. Many of the larger ones have hired experts in security and programmers in order to detect unwanted and deceptive messages. Two of the giants in the social media world–Facebook and Twitter–have filed lawsuits against companies they accuse of sending spam.

Facebook’s suit was against Adscend Media. Facebook alleged that nearly 300,000 users have been deceived into seeing spam by Adscend Media. Their suit further claimed that 80 percent of the advertising company’s revenue came from sending spam through Facebook links. Earlier this month, Adscend Media settled the case out of court. They agreed to pay Facebook $100,000 but denied creating deceptive advertisements.

Twitter’s case remains unresolved. They opened a lawsuit last month, suing two companies–Skootle and JL4 Web Solutions–as well as five individuals alleged to have created spam. The battle against spam has spread to a new frontier.

Read more at Bloomberg Business Week.