Facebook has fired a contractor after it was revealed he had accepted more than $11,000 in bribes to reactive accounts that had been banned from posting scam advertisements.
According to a BuzzFeed News report, the contractor accepted bribes from affiliate marketing company Ads Inc, an American firm previously revealed to be running scams on the platform, to reactive their ad accounts that had been banned due to violating Facebook’s policies.
After being contacted by BuzzFeed News about the bribes, Facebook said the unnamed worker, who was a contractor rather than an employee, had been fired.
“This behaviour is absolutely prohibited under our policies and the individual is no longer working with Facebook,” a company spokesperson said.
“We’re continuing to investigate the allegations and will take any further necessary action.”
San Diego-based marketing firm Ads Inc was earlier this year revealed to be running a Facebook scam involving more than $50 million worth of ads mostly featuring false claims about celebrities.
The scheme involved tricking users into signing up for costly monthly subscriptions for something that was first said to be a free trial.
According to chat messages and information from former Ads Inc employees, the marketing company’s own CEO, Asher Burke, negotiated the bribe with the Facebook contractor in winter last year.
The Facebook worker, who is known only as “Ryan”, was based in the company’s Austin office.
In the messages, Burke sent Ryan two ad accounts that he wanted reactivated, saying they were “on the border to acceptable side of the line”.
It hasn’t been revealed which of Ads Inc’s advertisements were involved with the bribes.
The worker reviewed these accounts and said they clearly breach Facebook’s policies, and then offered to reactivate them for a fee.
Ryan asked for $US3000 per month for three months or a $US5000 flat free in exchange for him using a “special tool few have access to” in order to reactivate the ad accounts associated with the specific business manager account.
This would reactivate 59 ad accounts associated with the account Burke had asked to be reenabled.
If questioned about the reactivation, the Facebook worker said he would feign ignorance.
“I would basically be playing dumb and reenabling by accident,” he said.
Burke agreed to pay him the $US5000 straight away, and to then move to the monthly retainer as long as the accounts stayed online.
“Good to be back in business!” Burke said when the deal was done.
BuzzFeed News also obtained messages of Burke telling a colleague about the news, and receiving “holy shit lol” as a reply.
Burke then replied with the sack of money emoji.
A former Ads Inc employee also hinted that other Facebook workers may have accepted bribes to reactive accounts as well.
“To be honest there were a few people that would flip ads back on,” they said.
Facebook declined to comment on whether it was investigating if other workers were involved with the scheme.
Virginia Senator Mark Warner said Facebook needs to do more to crack down on fraudulent advertising, and should treat cases like the bribery one as “indications of large problems in the opaque, heavily concentrated and largely unsupervised behavioural advertising markets”.
“For over four years, I have raised concerns to the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] that behavioural advertising markets are rife with fraud - not just in the form of click-fraud but, exploiting the scale of large platforms, in scams and criminal schemes that directly exploit American consumers,” Senator Warner said.