Twitter, Facebook spammers exploit MH17 disaster

Spammers are taking advantage of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 disaster to spread spam and objectionable links on social media. Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

TORONTO – As the story of downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 continues to evolve, spammers are taking advantage of the disaster to spread objectionable links on social media.

Many tweets relating to the tragedy include spam links that sometimes take users to pornographic or malicious sites.

Security firm Trend Micro said cyber criminals were quick to take advantage of the disaster on Twitter.

According to an investigation done by Trend Micro, malicious tweets began surfacing just a few hours after Malaysia Airlines tweeted that it had lost communication with the plane.

“It seems that the URLs are used in a kind of spam where the most talked about topic/hashtag in Twitter is gathered so that it can be easily searched by users,” read the report. “Once clicked by users, their URL count increases.”

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The security firm said the spammers were likely trying to gain page views to generate advertising revenue on the sites.

Spammers often take advantage of high-profile news stories in order to spread spam and malicious links. A similar situation followed the 2011 tsunami in Japan, Typhoon Haiyan and the Boston Marathon bombing.

In the hours following the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, a Twitter account asking for re-tweets in order to collect donations for victims was shut down after reports it was a scam.

But spammers may also be using fake tribute accounts for victims to spread spam.

According to a report by BBC, a Facebook community page dedicated to Liam Sweeney – one of the victims – included a single link with the title, “Video camera caught the moment plane MH17 crash over Ukraine.” However, the link was to a pornographic site.

The page has since been removed.

READ MORE: Flight MH17 victim’s father pens heartbreaking open letter

Global News contacted Facebook for a statement regarding whether it has had to remove fake tribute pages, profiles or spam surrounding the MH17 flight. The company said it is disabling the profiles as soon as they are made aware of them.

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“We are disabling these profiles as soon as we are made aware of them. We encourage people to block those responsible and report suspicious behavior to our team of experts via our reporting buttons so that we can quickly take the appropriate action,” said a Facebook spokesperson.

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