"Once every hundred years, media changes," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in 2007, predicting a sea change in online advertising. The reality: His social network is leading the way in online scams.
The Sydney Morning Herald caught Facebook redhanded running bogus ads for make-money-on-Google programs and other schemes. (Even Google says they're fraudulent.) The company's response: The ads are isolated incidents which go offline as soon as users report the scams.
If only that were true. As the Morning Herald found, the same ads keep appearing. According to Online Scams Exposed, a blog devoted to ferreting out fraudulent ads, the reason why they're showing up is a deliberate policy shift by Facebook.
The previously banned ad categories now allowed include:
* "Work-at-Home" Scams
* "Free Trial" Diet Products that bill your credit card well before the trial period ends, then refuse to let you cancel
* "Free Federal Grant Money" rackets where you pay get a list of 'secret' free grant programs (no such thing as a free lunch)
* "Free Ringtone" subscription services (The Florida Attorney General's Office had a field day with this one)
* "Free IQ Surveys" that feed you a bunch of easily answered questions before you are required to pay to see the results.
* "Cash4Gold" Programs encouraging you to shove your jewelery in an envelope and mail it in for a third of its actual value
Why would Facebook allow online scams to run on its site? The reason is obvious: It is losing money with every user it adds. Zuckerberg's creation constantly needs more servers to accommodate its growth, and revenues are not keeping pace.
So instead of delivering on Zuckerberg's 100-year change, Facebook executives are lowering their standards and letting online con artists prey on their users. It may provide a temporary boost to revenues, and allow Zuckerberg to realize his own get-rich-quick scheme. And it may be a transformative move in the world of media — just not one anyone will applaud.