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Fortescue Metals Group Chairman Andrew Forrest has filed a criminal case against Facebook in Australia for its failure to stop scam ads featuring his image. According to the Australian mining billionaire, this is the first time that Facebook is facing a criminal charge anywhere in the world.

“I’m doing this on behalf of innocent Australians who don’t have the resources to take on companies like Facebook,” Forrest said in his lawsuit.

Following Forrest’s criminal suit, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has reportedly started an investigation.

“While Dr. Forrest’s proceedings concern similar advertisements to those that the ACCC is investigating, the ACCC’s investigation is separate and concerns different questions of law. Dr. Forrest’s proceedings have been brought under the Commonwealth Criminal Code,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims told The Australian.

Forrest’s Lawsuit

Forrest alleged that fake crypto investment ads on Facebook used his image to claim that the mining billionaire endorsed certain investment schemes, and it resulted in many conned people. According to Forrest’s lawyers, Facebook “knowingly profits from this cycle of illegal ads,” and it amounts to a violation of anti-money laundering laws.

They also noted that Forrest had spent thousands of dollars since 2019 when these ads started appearing to dissociate himself from the false claims.

In an open letter in November 2019, Forrest asked Mark Zuckerberg to stop fake ads on Facebook featuring his face as an endorsement of the crypto investment schemes. But there was no appreciable change in the social media’s ad policy, and ads featuring celebrity testimonials continued to appear as sponsored posts. However, the Australian financial watchdog cautioned investors about fake crypto ads and sites with celebrity testimonials.

Meta, the parent company of social media giant Facebook, offered a clarification without acknowledging Forrest’s lawsuit. It said, “We don’t want ads seeking to scam people out of money or mislead people on Facebook – they violate our policies and are not good for our community.”

Where is the Problem?

Social media companies often blame “cloaking” for dubious ads to bypass the checks. Cloaking is a process that lets scammers show different content when it’s being reviewed by social media filters, while the actual ad to run on the platforms could be different.

“I want social media companies to use more of their vast resources and billions of dollars in annual revenue to protect vulnerable people who are targeted and fall victim to these scams,” Forrest said in his lawsuit.

“Like Dr. Forrest, we consider that Meta should be doing more to detect, prevent, and remove false or misleading advertisements from the Facebook platform so that consumers are not misled and scammers are prevented from reaching potential victims,” Sims from ACCC said.

Earlier this week, Facebook’s parent company Meta revealed disappointing Q4 2021 results, leading to a substantial double-digit price decline of its shares in after-hours trading.

Featured Image Courtesy of The West Australia


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