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3 Feb, 2022 05:07

Billionaire sues Facebook over scam ads

An Australian mining mogul argues the platform is being used to “commit crime” against unwitting netizens
Billionaire sues Facebook over scam ads

One of Australia’s richest men has launched a lawsuit against Facebook, claiming the site has allowed scams and fraudulent ads to proliferate, including some that use his own image in order to bilk victims of their cash.

Billionaire Andrew Forrest, who made his fortune in the iron ore business, filed the criminal suit on Thursday in the Magistrates Court of Western Australia, accusing Facebook of failing to take action “to prevent its systems [from] being used to commit crime,” according to Reuters and local media reports.

“I’m concerned about innocent Australians being scammed through clickbait advertising on social media,” he said in a statement, calling his lawsuit a “world-first” that would protect users from being “swindled.”

I’m committed to ensuring that social media operators don’t allow their sites to be used by criminal syndicates.

Schemes alleged in the complaint include fake advertisements that use “clickbait” to defraud Australians, as well as cryptocurrency scams, at least one of which featured the billionaire’s likeness without his permission, he said. He also claimed the purported fraud could put Facebook in violation of Australia’s laws against money laundering, and that the platform has been “criminally reckless” by refusing to address the problem.

Forrest has long been critical of Facebook, penning an open letter to CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2019 which also took aim at “scam advertisements” on the site, deeming them “abhorrent.”

“You have the power and the technology to prevent these scam advertisements from running on your platform,” he said at the time. “Is revenue more important to you than the life savings of elderly people, Mr. Zuckerberg?”

The mining magnate also filed a civil suit against the US-based company in California last September, but said that case is still pending in the state’s Superior Court.

Facebook’s parent firm Meta declined to comment on the latest lawsuit, but told ABC that deceptive ads “seeking to scam people out of money” violate the site’s policies, insisting it does take appropriate action against them.

“We take a multifaceted approach to stop these ads, we work not just to detect and reject the ads themselves but also block advertisers from our services and, in some cases, take court action to enforce our policies,” the company added.

An initial hearing for the Australian lawsuit will be held in late March.