Ads on Facebook are a pretty common thing, right? Well, not according to this Australian businessman who has sued Facebook over certain ads that featured him and other celebs. According to the businessman from Australia, the failure of Facebook to remove certain fraudulent ads and feature him along with some other celebrities that had a pretty high profile was particularly and criminally reckless.
Australian billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest is suing Facebook and taking it to court over certain scammy cryptocurrency advertisements that, according to him, are defrauding his name.
The chairman of Fortescue Metals has made an accusation on Facebook for breaching Australia’s money-laundering laws. He has claimed that it “knowingly profits from this cycle of illegal ads” that it didn’t succeed in removing. An initial court hearing in the Western Australian Magistrates Court is scheduled for the 28th of March, and there will be another hearing that is expected later in 2022.
Forrest is bringing forward the charges under Part 10 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, with the consent of Attorney-General Michaelia Cash. According to the filings, one Australian victim lost AUD 952,000 after falling for the scam. In addition, the court documents stated that the scam “defrauded victims out of millions of dollars.” “These scenarios played out in the underlying scam which used Dr. Forrest’s name, likeness, and reputation to find victims, who often reported being swindled after believing Dr. Forrest was endorsing the investment scheme.”
Forrest’s lawyers said that although they do “not know the precise number or identities of the individuals defrauded because of this vicious scam, the scope of the harm is vast.” He also had spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to distance himself from the scam since March 2019, when it first started being promoted on Facebook.
The complaint claims that Facebook’s access to user data has been a leading “contributor to the proliferation of illegal advertisements, “fake news” and other unwanted internet material.” Forrest added that the company’s failure to remove the fraudulent ads was “criminally reckless.”
He added that “the best way to protect Australians is to deter Facebook — through a criminal prosecution — from allowing itself to be used as an instrument of crime.” “Facebook has shown little appetite to self-regulate or take basic steps to protect Australians from the misuse of its platform by crooks and scammers, so I’ve been left with no other option than to take this action,” he said. If found guilty by the Australian courts, Facebook could face fines and be compelled to change the way its advertising works.
Last September, the businessman also lodged a separate lawsuit with the Superior Court of California, seeking injunctive relief. The case is still pending, with the date of the civil case yet to be set.
Also Read: Biggest crypto scams of 2021
The Scam Has Been Going For A Very Long Time
In 2019, Forrest was among several Australian celebrities falsely quoted giving testimony for a fraudulent cryptocurrency, including Kate Winslet. One scam quoted the celebs in fake mainstream news articles advertising a fake Bitcoin investment platform.
In 2020 the Australian Securities and Investments Commission issued a warning on fake celebrity-endorsed crypto ads, including Aussies like High Jackman, Nicole Kidman, and Waleed Aly. Unfortunately, other celebrities, including Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson, have also stolen their image to the front of crypto scams.
Forrest sent an open letter to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Nov 2019 requesting the platform to remove the fraudulent ads and prevent his image from being used in the future. As reported by Cointelegraph in Aug 2021, investment scams cost Australian investors more than $50.5 million in the first six months of 2021, with crypto scams contributing to more than 50% of the losses.