Australian Billionaire Launches Criminal Case Against Meta for Fake Crypto Ads

Australian mining magnate Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest has launched criminal proceedings against Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta conglomerate, alleging its Facebook social media arm breached Australia’s money laundering laws by failing to police false crypto advertisements.

Forrest, billionaire chairman of iron ore giant Fortescue Metals, has filed his criminal lawsuit against Meta in the Magistrates Court of Western Australia, having already launched related civil proceedings in the US state of California last September.

In charges brought under the Australian Commonwealth Criminal Code, Forrest alleges Facebook has repeatedly failed to remove posts by scammers that used his image, among those of other celebrities, to promote crypto investments on the site since March 2019.

Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, chairman of Fortescue Metals. Source: cnn.com

According to Forrest’s complaint, the company’s failure to prevent or remove the ads constitutes “criminally reckless” behaviour. Forrest further alleges that Facebook “failed to create controls or a corporate culture to prevent its systems being used to commit crime”.

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‘World-First’ Criminal Action Against the Social Media Giant

In a statement, Forrest said he was launching the “world-first” action on behalf of “everyday Australians” to protect their savings from being “swindled away by scammers”.

“I’m concerned about innocent Australians being scammed through clickbait advertising on social media,” Forrest said. “I’m committed to ensuring social media operators don’t allow their sites to be used by criminal syndicates.

Social media is part of our lives, but it’s in the public interest for more to be done to ensure fraud on social media platforms is eliminated or significantly reduced.

Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, Australian mining magnate

An initial hearing of Forrest’s complaint will take place on March 28, with the separate civil case pending in the Superior Court of California. A Meta spokesperson said the company was unable to comment on either court action, but provided a broader statement about scams on Facebook:

We don’t want ads seeking to scam people out of money or mislead people on Facebook – they violate our policies and are not good for our community. We take a multifaceted approach to stop these ads, working not just to detect and reject the ads themselves but also block advertisers from our services and, in some cases, take court action to enforce our policies. We’re committed to keeping these people off our platform.

Statement from Meta spokesperson

Meta Share Price Tanks, $200B Wiped Off Market Cap

It’s been a pretty ordinary start to the year for Meta, whose share price plunged 26 percent this week in what was the biggest single-day slide in market value for a US company. The drop erased over US$200 billion from Meta’s market capitalisation and around US$29 billion from CEO Zuckerberg’s net worth.

Yet Meta is not the only entity under fire for its advertising practices, with Spain, Singapore and the UK the latest jurisdictions to have made changes to their crypto advertising regulations. Last year, Google reviewed its crypto advertising policy after lifting its ban and adding specific requirements to which advertisers have to adhere.

Phil Stafford
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Phil Stafford

Phil is a long-standing Australian journalist with specialised experience in business, finance, travel and popular culture.

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