SumanSuman, posted on on 21st Nov, 2017, 2 Views

How Facebook Manages to Spot and Ban Cloaking by Spam Sites

Cloaking is a term very common among programmers and hackers. The word sounds like a heavy technological word but actually is just a search engine optimization technique. Now a day these tricks are used by spammers to fool filters. Facebook, as you all know, is very particular about their security and privacy of their users. Some spammers tried to fool the strict Facebook’s review team by showing them a normal pleasant landing page for ads or links while the actual users were seeing the spam ads like diet pills or porn, etc and these ads well violate the Facebook’s community standards and ad policies. 

What is “Cloaking”?

When we simply go and search the word “cloaking” in the dictionary. It reads “hide, cover, or disguise (something)”. The word exact means the same in the tech world too. Cloaking is a search engine optimization technique or trick in which the content that is presented to the “search engine spider” is different than what is actually presented to it users and public.

Answer ImageThe search engine spider is a team that is responsible for the entire search engine indexing and reviewing of all the data. They are also given the duty to check if all the data including ads, etc are complying with the search engine or website’s terms and conditions as well as policies. This is done by delivering content based on the IP addresses or the User-Agent HTTP header of the user requesting the page. When a user is identified by the spam server as a search engine spider or an official, then the script made by the server delivers a different web page that is pleasant and does follow all the guidelines of the search engine or website.

How Facebook is dealing with it?

As you people know how some spammers tried to fool the review team of Facebook by showing them normal page for links or ads, while all the users sees things like diet scams and porn which clearly violates the community standards and ad policies of Facebook. These spammers used the cloaking process to fool Facebook’s review processes and then get the opportunity to show whatever they want to show the users.

Answer ImageThey used this trick because they knew that otherwise their content wouldn’t have ever passed the guidelines of Facebook’s community standards and ad policies. The cloaking process hides also the destination from where the ad originated so the spammers couldn’t be easily tracked if caught. The spammers even created a fake yet very normal website to be-fool the review team of Facebook which could easily pass the test and get the permission to be viewed on the most popular social networking site in the world. But once they get approved they show their real colors. When users like us click on these links, they redirect us to ads like “lose your weight in these many days by eating this pill” or “use these to build a fantastic body” or in worst case scenarios even porn. These clearly violate some or even all the guidelines of Facebook’s ad policies.

Facebook's Official Statement:

Answer ImageThe ads product director of Facebook, Rob Leathern says that Facebook won’t take these lightly and will deactivate their ad counts and then simply remove them from the website. In order to check and remove all the defaulters they are planning on using humans and special artificial intelligence systems. They are not publicly disclosing their exact process because it will then help these spammers to escape. According to them, if anyone is found guilty in any way, shape or form then they will simply kick them off the platform forever. By cutting off traffic to these spam sites, Facebook can do a lot of damage to them as they consider Facebook as their largest income source.

Ways to Deal with Website Cloaking:

Facebook has already taken a step forward and updated its policies so as to ban any page or advertisers that use cloaking. Facebook is not the only company that is facing the wrath of these cloaking spams. Google is also facing such problems lately and also planning on revamping its guidelines so that it can punish all those who use cloaking for their benefit. In Google’s case, the spammers use cloaking and display HTML or text data to the search engine spider to get through the guidelines and then show websites to users that contain images and videos which normally would have been rejected. Cloaking can be handled in a couple of ways, depending on if it’s your site or another site:

  • On your own site- Don’t do it without consulting an ethical professional, and even then be cautious. If you have pages that detect the search engine spiders and change the page content as a result, you’re operating in dangerous waters that could get your site banished from the search engines.
  • On other sites- If you suspect that a competitor is using cloaking to gain an undeserved ranking in the search engines, you can compare their Web page to the version of the page that the search engine last cached(stored in their index). Do a search that you know will include that Web page in the results set, and click the Cached link under the URL. This shows you the Web page as it last looked to the search engine.

Conclusion:

It is quite true that deceptive cloaking is always wrong but not all forms of cloaking is illegal. But these spammers should be caught and banned from all search engines and social networking websites so that they stop doing such activities. Now Facebook is collaborating with other companies and soon they are going to combat these types of activities. This must have brought a sigh of relief to all of us.

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