Facebook under fire over ads for fake goods

Facebook on tabletThe world's biggest social media business Facebook has been criticised for allowing adverts on its site that sells counterfeit goods.

This is according to a new study called: 'Online Advertising Techniques for Counterfeit Goods and Illicit Sales' by several leading cyber security experts.

The authors of the report looked at more than a thousand Facebook ads and found that almost a quarter of those promoting fashion and luxury goods are in fact for counterfeit items such as Ray Bay sunglasses, Louis Vuitton bags, and Ralph Lauren polo shirts.

And these are luring users in, the researchers warn, as at first sight the ads look legitimate and lead to websites that look genuine.

They say that this is potentially tricking the average Facebook user into believing they're buying real products without realising the danger.

The problem is particularly bad with Facebook because of the way its business model works, they suggest. When users click the 'like' button for fashion brands pages such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, or  Armani, once they log into their Facebook account again they will be hit with a variety of fashion ads – not only in right column of a homepage normally devoted to ads, but also in the newsfeed, even if labelled as 'sponsored ads'.

This is due to the fact that advertisers explicitly request a targeted user profile based on similar preferences and marketplaces. And this is where the sites leading to counterfeit goods are managing to get on people's pages.

The researchers set up 12 dummy Facebook accounts and identified a sample of 1,067 ads. The two researchers focused on the 180 fashion and luxury ads in that sample, 43 of which pointed to websites selling counterfeit goods, according to the study.

Those sites were set up using various techniques to trick visitors, according to the researchers. They often had legitimate looking URLs, such as, and even included fake logos of security and payment system companies.

Many of those domains, according to the research, were registered in China, and their apparent owners used Chinese email accounts, with the report's authors saying it may be run by Chinese organisations, although they cannot prove this. The researchers argue that Facebook must take responsibility for these sites being on their pages.

Speaking to the technology news site Mashable, a Facebook spokesperson said: "We prohibit fraudulent or misleading claims or content, and to enforce our terms and policies, we have invested significant resources in developing a robust advertising review program that includes both automated and manual review of ads."

Image courtesy of:
Twin Design /

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