Fortescue Metals Group Chairman Andrew Forrest has filed a criminal case against Facebook in Australia for failing to stop fraudulent ads featuring his likeness. According to the Australian mining billionaire, this is the first time that Facebook has faced 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 complaint, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reportedly launched an investigation.

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

Forrest Lawsuit

Forrest alleged that fake crypto investment ads on Facebook used his image to claim that the billionaire miner was endorsing certain investment schemes, resulting in many people being scammed. According to Forrest’s lawyers, Facebook “knowingly profits from this illegal ad cycle” and amounts to a violation of anti-money laundering laws.

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

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

Meta, the parent company of social media giant Facebook, offered clarification without acknowledging Forrest’s claim. It read: “We don’t want ads that seek to scam people out of money or trick 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 circumvent controls. Cloaking is a process that allows scammers to display different content when reviewed by social media filters, while the actual ad running on the platforms might 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 fall victim to these scams,” Forrest said in his lawsuit.

“Like Dr. Forrest, we believe Meta should do more to detect, prevent, and remove false or misleading ads from the Facebook platform so that consumers are not misled and potential victims are not reached by scammers,” Sims said. of ACCC.

Earlier this week, Facebook parent company Meta revealed disappointing Q4 2021 results, prompting a substantial double-digit drop in its share price in after-hours trading.

Featured image courtesy of The West Australia

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