Hackers are breaking into the Facebook pages of small businesses and nonprofits, rebranding and renaming them, and filling them with stolen, AI-generated images that people think are real. In one case, the Facebook page for a popular dog rescue in California was hacked, leaving it with a greatly reduced capacity to get dogs adopted. “Every week that goes by that we can’t access our Facebook page is a week that more dogs will pass away,” Zach Skow, founder of Marley’s Mutts told KGET News.
Last month, I reported on the surge of engagement bait Facebook pages that put previously viral images through “image-to-image” generative AI tools and spam them to people who can’t tell that they aren’t real. It wasn’t clear at the time how many of these pages amassed huge followings in the first place. What I’ve learned over the last few weeks is that some of these pages have been hacked and stolen from other Facebook users and renamed.
Skow told KGET News last week that the Facebook page for Marley’s Mutts Rescue Ranch, which had roughly 750,000 fans, was hacked and stolen in late December. Skow told KGET that there is no recourse for him, and that Marley’s Mutts has been unable to get any help from Facebook. Not mentioned in the news report is that the page was renamed to “Dogs Like Family,” which is visible in an Instagram post by Marley’s Mutts.
A post on Marley’s Mutts’ Instagram page shows that the people who newly controlled the account posted an image with the caption “My brother has made a wolf from snow …” (the rest of the caption is cut off in Marley’s Mutts’ image. When I searched that caption, I saw a handful of pages posting clearly AI-generated images of a wolf carved from snow. These images are very similar to the ones I previously reported on, and had been posted across pages called “Love Dogs,” “Wolves Lovers,” “New Cranky Old Women,” and “Animal Antics New,” all of which have posted dozens of clearly AI-generated images on their pages. The snow wolf image has hundreds or thousands of likes and comments on each of the pages that posted it, with most of them being from people who clearly have no idea that they’re fake.
While searching for what had become of the Marley’s Mutts Rescue Ranch page, I clicked into the “Dogs Like Family” page and found that the current Dogs Like Family page is also posting AI-generated images, has 733,000 followers, and once belonged to a dance studio in Florida called “Moonlight Dance Studio.” Before posting dozens of stolen and AI-generated images of dogs on December 24, the day the page was stolen, there are years’ worth of posts about goings-on at the dance studio.
Roxy Morris, the co-owner of Moonlight Dance Studio, posted on Christmas Eve that the page for Moonlight Dance Studio was stolen. “Unfortunately it has come to our attention that our FaceBook page for the dance studio has been hacked. The hacker has also changed its name to ‘Dogs Like Family.’ Please go and unfollow this page, as we don’t know the hackers intentions or what they will post or message,” she wrote.
“We thank you for your continued prayer over the studio, as we know this is not only a physical attack, but also a spiritual one,” she added.
It is not currently clear whether the “Dogs Like Family” page that is currently up was able to merge the Marley’s Mutts Rescue Ranch page with the Moonlight Dance Studio page, or whether Dogs Like Family lost control of the Marley’s Mutts page after local media coverage of the theft, and then began using the stolen Moonlight Dance Studio page. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment, and Marley’s Mutts did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Calls to Marley’s Mutts went directly to voicemail.
Catherine Hall, a Facebook user who has been documenting the spread of AI-generated imagery on Facebook, also sent me a page called “Life Nature” that has 300,000 followers and has been posting AI-generated wood carving, cake, crochet, and ice sculpture images (it has also posted the snow wolf) since January 2. Before that, the page belonged to Continental Touring USA and was used to promote heavy metal concerts around the country. Stephan Mellul, a booking agent for Continental, told me that “we found out about the page being hacked towards the end of December. No idea how it happened unfortunately, as I was the only admin and my personal profile is still intact. Appreciate you trying to support the cause.”
Meta’s notoriously nonexistent customer service is well-documented. Instagram influencers who have had their accounts stolen have had to resort to having other hackers steal their accounts back for them. Animal rescues, in particular, have repeatedly had their Facebook and Instagram pages hacked because they often have many followers (the popularity of cute animal photos on the internet is undefeated).
Skow told KGET it took Marley’s Mutts 15 years to build its Facebook following, which it used to get dogs adopted, raise money, and spread awareness about the rescue.