The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has sued Meta over its misleading conduct for publishing scam celebrity crypto ads on Facebook. The lawsuit includes Ireland Limited (which is also part of Meta).
The ACCC alleges that Meta “engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct by publishing scam advertisements featuring prominent Australian public figures.” It also alleges that that Meta aided and abetted or was knowingly concerned in false or misleading conduct and representations by advertisers.
The ACCC alleges that the ads, which promoted investment in cryptocurrency or money-making schemes, were likely to mislead Facebook users into believing the advertised schemes were associated with well-known people features in the ads, such as businessman Dick Smith, TV presenter David Koch, and former NSW Premier Mike Baird. The schemes were in fact scams, and the people featured in the ads had never approved or endorsed them.
According to the ACCC: “The ads contained links that took Facebook users to a fake media article that included quotes attributed to the public figure in the ad endorsing a cryptocurrency or money-making scheme. Users were then invited to sign up and were subsequently called by scammers who used high pressure tactics, such as repeated phone calls, to convince users to deposit funds into the fake schemes.”
Reuters reported a quote from ACCC Chair Rod Sims, who said: “The essence of our case is that Meta is responsible for these ads that it publishes on its platform. It is alleged that Meta was aware… scam ads were being displayed on Facebook but did not take sufficient steps to address the issue.”
The Guardian reported: The scam has likely raked in millions from unsuspecting people. One 77-year-old grandmother lost $80,000 in the investment, while the ACCC has said another person lost $650,000 through the scam.
The Sydney Morning Herald posted a response from a Meta company spokesman, who said the company did not want ads seeking to scam people out of money or mislead people on Facebook.
Personally, I do not believe the statement the Meta spokesperson gave. Meta is a huge company, and if it truly wanted to protect users from being harmed by fake crypto ads, it should have immediately acted to remove them. Meta left those ads up.