TTP Report: Facebook Black Market for Ad Accounts Raises Scam, Election Concerns
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 14, 2022
Contact: Michael Clauw, email@example.com, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report revealing that Facebook is allowing users to buy and sell Facebook business manager accounts—some approved to run political ads—that can run multiple pages and ad campaigns. TTP found more than 100 Facebook groups, some with tens of thousands of members, where users openly buy and sell these accounts in violation of Facebook policy. This overt black market casts serious doubt on Meta’s commitment to combat scams, disinformation, and election interference.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “In previous elections, we’ve seen the damage that can be done by bad actors getting their hands on accounts with the ability to run political ads on Facebook. Despite Facebook’s promises to clean up this activity, it’s hosting a black market for these kinds of kinds of accounts right on its platform.”
Searching Facebook for phrases like “ad approved account,” “buy and sell business accounts,” and “verified ad account,” TTP found a total of 110 groups with a cumulative 531,000 members trading in Meta business manager accounts, or “BM” accounts, as sellers call them. Many groups made overt references to their purpose in the group names, like “Verified Business Manager Buy&Sell Trusted Group” and “Verified bm trusted market.”
Members of these groups often sell accounts in bulk, require payment in cryptocurrency, and ask interested parties to contact them on WhatsApp, Meta’s encrypted messaging platform. They frequently sell accounts for specific countries, including the U.S., India, and Brazil. The accounts trafficked in these Facebook groups are also frequently offered with a prepaid ad balance or linked to someone’s credit card—indicating they were hacked or stolen.
TTP’s investigation also found sellers offering accounts that can run ads on social issues, elections, or politics, raising concerns they could be used for coordinated inauthentic activity and election interference—issues that have plagued Facebook for years. Some sellers even offer to sell the documentation used the gain approval to run these types of ads. The documents observed by TTP included government ID cards, passports, U.S. Social Security cards, business documents, and utility bills.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “Meta is allowing this black market to thrive right under its nose to a scale that frankly seems unexplainable. Yet with Meta, it’s a pretty sure bet that profits play a role. Meta is likely enjoying considerable revenue from these ad accounts, despite the fact that they violate company policy. That may explain why they are allowed to continue to exist in plain sight.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.