In a report published on December 16th, Meta announced the removal of seven surveillance-for-hire organizations that used Facebook to target individuals in over 100 different countries, some of which deployed spyware. The surveillance-for-hire industry targets people across the internet to collect intelligence, manipulate them into revealing information, and compromise their devices and accounts. Meta alerted 50,000 individuals they believed were being targeted by the seven different organizations using Facebook. Meta blocked related infrastructure, banned the seven entities from their platform, and issued Cease and Desist warnings, putting each of them on notice that their targeting of people has no place on the platform and is against the community standards. Hundreds of accounts belonging to firms known as Israeli Cobwebs Technologies, Cognyte, Black Cube, Bluehawk CI, India-based BellTroX, Macedonia-based Cytrox, and an unknown entity in China were removed by Meta.
Meta continues to fight against organizations using their platforms to deploy spyware. Facebook sued Israeli-based spyware vendor NSO Group in 2019 for using WhatsApp to deploy malware. Meta executives have urged the Biden administration to take action against spyware vendors, but understand the massive problem needs to be combatted by the private sector as well. The U.S. government has taken action against spyware groups by sanctioning several organizations, most recently NSO group, and Russia-based Positive technologies.