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Facebook's 3rd Biggest Advertiser Accused Of Being Affiliate Toolbar Scam; Facebook Says It's Never Heard Of The Company

from the just-like-the-old-days... dept

There have been numerous reports lately concerning just how much money Facebook is making on ads. That's part of the reason it was able to get that otherworldly $50 billion valuation from some. However, some are noticing something fishy in the Facebook ad business. After seeing an AdAge article mention in passing that the third largest advertiser on Facebook is not a household namebrand, but rather Make-My-Baby.com. Google's spam-catcher-in-chief Matt Cutts did some digging and quickly noticed that the site appears to be a sketchy toolbar installer that tries to switch you to using Bing, and then it gets an affiliate cut of any search ads you click on going forward. Cutts also points out that the URL to tell you how to uninstall the toolbar leads to a 404 page not found -- and many folks have had difficulty uninstalling the toolbar.

Marshall Kirkpatrick, over at ReadWriteWeb, digs in deeper and wonders if anyone at Facebook or Microsoft is actually minding the store. Even if they didn't directly know this was happening, if this is really the third largest advertiser on Facebook, both of those companies had to know something was up, just based on the numbers. A company like Facebook is intimately aware of its third biggest advertiser, and if the company is really driving that much traffic to Bing, then Microsoft would surely know about it as well.

Of course, this is where the story gets more bizarre. While Microsoft's response to this story was to cut off the company, Facebook's response was to claim that the company isn't an advertiser at all, let alone the third largest advertiser on the site. So how is it that reports suggest the company is the third largest advertiser, when Facebook claims they're not an advertiser at all? The company does have a slight hedge, by saying that "any affiliates that try to push people there we would shut down." So it's possible that it was hidden through some sort of affiliate setup before Facebook caught it -- but no one seems to be revealing any of the details.

Either way, all of this sounds quite reminiscent of the old adware days, where all sorts of sketchy companies would trick people into installing software to scrape up affiliate revenue. We hadn't seen much of that lately, as many of the old players eventually got wiped out, but it's hardly a surprise that similar schemes would quickly jump up in a Facebook world, whether or not it was officially through Facebook's advertising functionality.

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  1. identicon
    Dohn Joe, 18 Jan 2011 @ 10:37pm

    Inside Job

    Well considering Microsoft, who has a major interest in seeing Bing promoted, is a major shareholder in Facebook so nobody can claim this was somes sort of accident...

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