The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is suing Facebook’s parent company, Meta, for running “scam celebrity crypto adverts.”
Facebook has been accused of running advertising encouraging people to invest in bitcoin and other money-making schemes that were actually scams, resulting in one customer losing almost $650,000 AUS (£365).
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which announced the court proceedings against Meta on Friday, the celebrities who appeared in the advertising “had never approved or endorsed them.”
“Users were directed to a bogus media piece that includes quotes ascribed to the prominent figure featured in the ad advocating a cryptocurrency or money-making scheme,” the ACCC stated of the adverts Facebook is suspected of running in Australia.
“Them were then urged to sign up,” the watchdog noted, “and were then approached by scammers who used high-pressure techniques, such as frequent phone calls, to persuade users to deposit funds into the phony schemes.”
“The essence of our case is that Meta is liable for these ads that it publishes on its platform,” said the commission’s chair Rod Sims, who started the lawsuit on his penultimate day at the regulator.
The social media network has been accused of knowing about celebrity endorsement scams on Facebook but doing little to solve the problem.
“We don’t want advertising on Facebook seeking to cheat people out of money or mislead people – they violate our regulations and are not helpful for our community,” a Meta spokeswoman said.
We use technology to detect and block scam adverts, and we’re constantly working to stay ahead of scammers’ attempts to get around our detection systems “They also added.
“To this point, we’ve cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation. We will evaluate the ACCC’s new submission and aim to defend the case.
“We are unable to comment further on the details of the case because it is currently before the Federal Court,” they said.
It comes as a result of the new Online Safety Bill, which will oblige technology companies in the UK to combat bogus marketing.
Martin Lewis, the creator of MoneySavingExpert in the United Kingdom, recently settled a case with Facebook over the use of his name and image in misleading adverts. Andrew Forrest, an Australian mining magnate, is currently suing Facebook in a similar lawsuit.
The administration has been accused by Parliament’s treasury committee of neglecting to address an alarming rise in fraud across the country.
The MPs proposed that online companies such as Meta and Google compensate people who have been defrauded by scams advertised on their platforms.
Rather than paying compensation, the MPs pointed out that the companies were receiving additional advertising money from the government to warn people about the scams.
Between 2019 and 2021, the Financial Conduct Authority paid more than £1.1 million to businesses such as Google, Twitter, TikTok, and Meta to conduct anti-scam advertisements.
Since then, Google has offered the regulator $3 million (£2.2 million) in free advertising credits, a move that MPs believe should be emulated by other platforms.