Facebook Hits New Zealand Company Selling Fake Instagram Likes And Follows With Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit

The defendants reportedly made over $9.4 million from their operation.

The Instagram and Facebook logos are displayed at the 2018 CeBIT technology trade fair.
Alexander Koerner / Getty Images

The defendants reportedly made over $9.4 million from their operation.

Cult of Mac reports that Facebook is suing New Zealand-based company Social Media Series Limited for selling fake likes and follows to Instagram users. The lawsuit was filed Friday in the United States District Court in San Francisco and named the company as well as three individual defendants, Leon Hedges, Arend Nollen, and David Pasanen.

The lawsuit claims that the defendants used various companies and websites, such as Likesocial.co and IGFamous.net, to create bot-generated followers, likes, and views, which allegedly violates both Instagram’s terms of use as well as U.S. computer fraud laws.

“Some of the Instagram accounts controlled by Defendants were responsible for tens of thousands of likes on a daily basis.”

Jessica Romero, Facebook’s director of platform enforcement and litigation, released a written statement addressing the lawsuit.

“Inauthentic activity has no place on our platform. That’s why we devote significant resources to detecting and stopping this behavior, including blocking the creation and use of fake accounts and using machine learning technology to proactively find and remove inauthentic activity from Instagram.”

“Today’s lawsuit is one more step in our ongoing efforts to protect people and prevent inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram,” the statement concludes.

Facebook’s lawsuit claims that the defendants have been conducting their illegal bot operations since mid-2015. The company said that it sent them a cease and desist notice in early 2018, which succeeded in getting them to shut down their first sites. But afterward, they created a new storefront with a fake company name, according to The Verge.

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The defendants reportedly made over $9.4 million selling likes from anywhere from $10 to $99 weekly. But unfortunately for Social Media Series Limited, Facebook is seeking an unspecified amount of damages that Cult of Mac reports will likely exceed the money the company made from their services.

Purchasing likes is an attractive option for Instagram users that require them to make their living. As a social influencer, more likes, views, and followers increase popularity and attract sponsors, which is their bread and butter. As such, fake engagement is offered for all social media platforms, including Twitter.

In a recent meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, President Donald Trump complained about his falling Twitter numbers. Dorsey suggested that this decline could be the result of the platform cracking down on fraudulent activity.

The Instagram lawsuit is the second that Facebook has filed in regard to fake accounts. Last month, the company sued multiple Chinese companies that sold followers and likes to various social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.