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What is Facebook cloaking, and why is it so dangerous?

What is Facebook cloaking, and why is it so dangerous?
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I'm sure that you've been hearing a lot about "fake news" recently. Writers actually get paid to fabricate stories, intended to catch people's attention and trick them into clicking. It's big business these days and can generate tons of revenue off clicks.

Clicking a link to read a fake story is bad enough, but the problem is actually getting worse. Now, sites like Facebook are being populated with fake news stories and ads that contain malicious links that could infect your gadget with malware.

What is Facebook doing about fake ads?

When the fake news phenomenon seemed to be at its peak last fall, Facebook and Google made policy changes to try and eliminate it. They began cracking down on sites that promoted fake news. Meaning, when they discovered fake news sites that use the companies' ad services, they blocked the sites.

In an effort to circumvent these policies, spammers have started "cloaking" the content that they show to sites like Google and Facebook. Cloaking is when spammers create a link to a page that passes a sites' policy requirements and give it to the sites' review team. The same link, when clicked on by people using the Facebook app, takes users to a malicious version of the page.

Image: Example of cloaking link. (Source: Facebook)

The good news is Facebook has announced that it is cracking down on cloaking. It is using both humans and artificial intelligence systems to find cloakers.

A spokesperson told Tech Crunch, "We'll deactivate their ad counts, we'll kick them off, we'll get rid of their Pages. There's no legitimate use case for cloaking. If we find it, it doesn't really matter who that actor is. They're usually bad actors and spammers by definition. So the line is if anyone does this in any way, shape or form, we want them off the platform."

Though it's great that Facebook is being proactive to try and stop cloaking, it's almost impossible to find everything. There are millions of posts every day, which makes it virtually impossible to track them all down. That's why you need to take your safety into your own hands.

How to stay safe on Facebook

Just like anything, there are pros and cons to having your Facebook account. For most, those pros outweigh the cons, and that's why it's even more important that you use caution. Here are some quick ways you can avoid scams and protect your account against various threats.

  • Be cautious with links - If you get a notification or see a post that you find suspicious, don't click on its links. It's better to type the website's address directly into a browser than clicking on a link. Before you ever click on a link, hover over it with your mouse to see where it is going to take you. If the destination isn't what the link claims, do not click on it.
  • Do an online search - If something seems shady, you should do an online search on the topic. If it's a scam, there are probably people online complaining about it and you can find more information.
  • Watch for typos - Scams are infamous for having typos. But, then again, so are social media posts! 
  • Update your Facebook security settings - If it's been a while since you tweaked your settings, it's a good idea to run through Facebook's security checkup. Keeping your account private and secure can help you stay out of sight from hackers and scammers.

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Source: Techcrunch
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