Facebook filed a lawsuit on Thursday against a website owner who allegedly operated a network of Instagram clone sites using information from more than 100,000 public profiles. This complaint marks the social media giant’s latest crackdown on organizations both large and small for violating its terms of service.
According to Facebook, Ensar Sahinturk, who is a Turkish national, used automation software to scrape profiles, photos, and videos from over 100,000 Instagram accounts without permission. He then reportedly published this data on his network of clone websites, many of which had similar names to Instagram. Facebook said it became aware of the network in November 2019, and at least one of Sahinturk’s websites began operating as far back as August 2017. In a statement to TechCrunch, a company spokesperson said the network had “voluminous traffic” but did not disclose specific metrics concerning the extent of its reach.
In a company blog post announcing the suit, Jessica Romero, Facebook’s director of platform enforcement and litigation, said that Facebook had previously issued Sahinturk cease and desist letters and disabled his accounts on Facebook and Instagram. Now the company seeks to “obtain a permanent injunction” against him.
“Data scraping undermines people’s privacy and ability to control their information, and is prohibited by our Terms,” Romero said. “This case is the latest example of our actions to disrupt those who scrape user data as part of our ongoing commitment to protect our community, enforce our policies and hold people accountable for abusing our services.”
Facebook has been steadily churning out lawsuits in an aggressive campaign against developers and organizations that misuse its platform. Last month, Facebook filed two lawsuits targeting companies caught selling likes and followers on Instagram. A Russia-based developer was hit with a suit in August for purportedly running a network of businesses similarly dealing in fake engagement on the platform. It’s apparently a lucrative line of work, which explains why so many fraudulent campaigns keep cropping up. A ring in New Zealand allegedly made more than $9 million peddling artificial engagement services before Facebook came down with a lawsuit last year.