Facebook has sued a Hong Kong-based developer for allegedly implanting malware into Android apps that created fake clicks on the social network’s ads.

Why it matters: The case is the latest in a series of offensives against Chinese companies found to be injecting malware in apps for financial gain.

  • Google has banned developers including Baidu-affiliate Do Global from its Play Store for similar reasons. Meanwhile, the company barred CooTek from its ad platform after the Chinese company was found to be using a malicious plug-in that violated Google’s advertising policies.

Details: Hong Kong-based LionMobi allegedly engaged in “click injection fraud” to generate fake clicks on ads displayed on a smartphone. LionMobi was not immediately available for comment when TechNode reached out on Wednesday.

  • Facebook’s complaint was also lodged against Singapore-based developer JediMobi.
  • The US company also said that LionMobi posted ads for malicious apps on its network, violating the company’s advertising policies.
  • Facebook said its lawsuit is “one of the first of its kind” against the practice.
  • Both LionMobi and JediMobi have been banned from Facebook’s Audience Network, which allows advertisers to extend their campaigns across the internet and into apps.
  • Facebook said that advertisers affected by the maliciously generated ad clicks were reimbursed in March.

“LionMobi and JediMobi generated unearned payouts from Facebook for misrepresenting that a real person had clicked on the ads.” —Jessica Romero, Facebook’s director of Platform Enforcement and Litigation

Context: Tech companies are clamping down on malicious software that generates fraudulent revenue for app developers. The practice hurts companies like Facebook and Google, which rely on ads to drive revenue.

  • Facebook has also been attempting to assuage concerns over user privacy issues that arose after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
  • Last year, Google removed several apps developed by Cheetah Mobile for ad fraud.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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