Australia competition watchdog sues Meta over scam crypto advertisements
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Australia competition watchdog sues Meta over scam crypto advertisements

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced Friday that it filed a federal case against Facebook owner Meta, alleging that the company engaged in “false, misleading and deceptive conduct” by posting scam advertisements involving Australian celebrities.

The ACCC claimed that the concerned advertisements encouraged users to invest in cryptocurrencies and money-making schemes by leading them to believe that the advertised schemes were linked to celebrities. The advertisements included links to false news articles with quotes ascribed to prominent personalities, inviting users to sign up for the scheme. Subsequently, the scammers contacted the users and used pressure tactics to induce them into depositing funds.

The ACCC alleged that although Meta knew about the scam cryptocurrency advertisements featuring celebrities, it did not make any efforts to resolve the issue. Even after the affected public figures complained that their names and images were being used without their permission, Meta failed to take appropriate action. The ACCC also alleged that Meta breached the Australian Consumer Law and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act.

In 2019, Australian businessman Andrew Forrest sent an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, criticising Facebook for permitting cryptocurrency fraud advertisements to be posted on the network using his name. Last month, Forrest instituted criminal proceedings against Meta for their failure to prevent scam ads that used his image.

ACCC Chair Rod Sims said, “it is a key part of Meta’s business to enable advertisers to target users who are most likely to click on the link in an ad to visit the ad’s landing page, using Facebook algorithms. Those visits to landing pages from ads generate substantial revenue for Facebook.” Sims further added, “Meta is responsible for these ads that it publishes on its platform.”

In its case, the ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, penalties, costs and other orders against Meta.