ACCC takes action against Meta Platforms


By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Thursday, 24 March, 2022

ACCC takes action against Meta Platforms

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken Facebook owner Meta to court for allegedly misleading consumers by publishing scam crypto advertisements featuring prominent Australian public figures.

The regulator has initiated court proceedings against Meta Platforms and Meta Platforms Ireland alleging that they engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct by publishing the ads on Facebook.

The ACCC has also alleged that Meta aided and abetted or was knowingly concerned in false or misleading conduct and representations by the advertisers, in violation of Australian Consumer Law and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act (ASIC Act).

According to the complaint, 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 public figures such as Dick Smith, TV presenter David Koch and former NSW Premier Mike Baird.

In fact the people featured in the ads never approved or endorsed them, the ACCC said.

The ads contained took Facebook users to a fake media article that included quotes attributed to these figures endorsing a cryptocurrency or money-making scheme.

The scammers then used high pressure e tactics, such as repeated phone calls, to convince users to deposit funds into the fake crypto schemes, according to ACCC Chair Rod Sims.

“The essence of our case is that Meta is responsible for these ads that it publishes on its platform,” he 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 said the ACCC is alleging that Meta was aware of the scams but did not take sufficient steps to address the issue, even after public figures internationally had complained that their names and images had been used in similar ads without their consent.

“We allege that the technology of Meta enabled these ads to be targeted to users most likely to engage with the ads, that Meta assured its users it would detect and prevent spam and promote safety on Facebook, but it failed to prevent the publication of other similar celebrity endorsement cryptocurrency scam ads on its pages or warn users,” Sims said.

“Meta should have been doing more to detect and then remove false or misleading ads on Facebook, to prevent consumers from falling victim to ruthless scammers.”

He said one consumer lost more than $650,000 in the scam as a result of being exposed to one of the ads.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, penalties, costs and other orders.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/nicescene

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