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article imageFacebook bans 'cloaking' as it cracks down on scams

By James Walker     Aug 9, 2017 in Technology
Facebook has announced it's taking steps to combat the rise of "cloaking" on its platform. The practice refers to a popular deception technique where scammers disguise a link to their website as a genuine News Feed post, fooling Facebook's moderators.
In a newsroom post today, Facebook explained how cloaking works. The "bad actors" behind the content hide the true destination of their posts, allowing an innocuous-looking link to direct you to a scam site.
The scammers fool Facebook's moderators and automated anti-scam tools. The servers hosting the "cloaked" webpage are configured to send different content to Facebook's staff.
By looking at the IP address of the visitor, the server can determine whether someone within Facebook has loaded the page. It'll then return a generic landing page that seems to be genuine. Everyone else is shown the scam content, typically advertising dubious dieting pills and muscle building products.
Facebook is banning  cloaking
Facebook is banning "cloaking"
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Facebook said it’s now debuting new tools which are capable of detecting cloaking. It's brought in advanced artificial intelligence and an expanded team of moderators to detect scammers using cloaked links. The company's automated moderation tools can now look for differences in webpage content when it's viewed by a Facebook user compared to an internal staff member.
Facebook views cloaking as "deliberate and deceptive" and said it won't be tolerated on its platform. The company said it's going to start taking a harder stand against the technique, removing and banning pages that use cloaking. It's also started collaborating with other social networks to remove cloaked links from the wider web.
Facebook is banning  cloaking
Facebook is banning "cloaking"
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"We are always working to combat the spread of misinformation and the financially-motivated bad actors who create misleading experiences for people," said Facebook. "Today we're sharing additional steps we've taken to remove even more of them Facebook, so that what people see after clicking an ad or post matches their expectations."
Facebook said that legitimate publishers who don't cloak their links won't be impacted by the change. If anything, they stand to gain from the removal of cloaked links as their content is more likely to appear in a user's News Feed.
Pages that do engage in cloaking can now expect to be removed. Facebook said it has already taken down "thousands" of offending pages in the past few months alone, cutting scammers off from their audiences and eliminating the financial incentives.
More about Facebook, Social media, Apps, Scam, News feed
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