Australia’s consumer rights watchdog said on Friday it had sued Facebook owner Meta Platforms on Friday, alleging the social media giant failed to prevent crypto scam advertisements featuring well-known people on its platform.
The crypto scam advertisements, which endorsed investment in cryptocurrency or money-making schemes, could have misled Facebook users into believing they were promoted by celebrities, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) said.
The ACCC said it had instituted Federal Court proceedings, alleging that Meta’s conduct was in breach of the Australian Consumer Law and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act.
“Meta aided and abetted or was knowingly concerned in false or misleading conduct and representations by the advertisers,” ACCC said.
The ads used fake endorsements from businessman Dick Smith, TV presenter David Koch and former New South Wales premier Mike Baird, the commission said.
“The schemes were in fact scams, and the people featured in the ads had never approved or endorsed them,” ACCC said.
Billionaire mining and new energy tycoon Andrew Forrest has already initiated both civil and criminal proceedings against Meta over his face being falsely used in these ads.
Fake Media Article
The ads contained links which took Facebook users to a fake media article that included quotes attributed to the public figure featured in the ad endorsing a cryptocurrency or money-making scheme.
Users were then invited to sign up and were subsequently contacted by scammers who used high pressure tactics, such as repeated phone calls, to convince users to deposit funds into the fake schemes.
“The essence of our case is that Meta is responsible for these ads that it publishes on its platform,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
“It is a key part of Meta’s business to enable advertisers to target users who are most likely to click on the link in an ad to visit the ad’s landing page, using Facebook algorithms. Those visits to landing pages from ads generate substantial revenue for Facebook.”
Crypto Scam Advertisements
It is alleged that Meta was aware that the celebrity endorsement cryptocurrency scam advertisements were being displayed on Facebook but did not take sufficient steps to address the issue.
The celebrity endorsement cryptocurrency scam ads were still being displayed on Facebook even after public figures around the world had complained that their names and images had been used in similar ads without their consent.
“Meta should have been doing more to detect and then remove false or misleading ads on Facebook, to prevent consumers from falling victim to ruthless scammers,” Sims said.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, penalties, costs and other orders.
“We will review the recent filing by the ACCC and intend to defend the proceedings,” a Meta spokesperson said, declining to comment further as the case was before a court.
- George Russell