Internet scammers have no shortage of imagination or pigeons and social networks are an ideal playground for them. In Australia, consumers have decided not to let themselves be taken advantage of and proceedings have been multiplying for years. Lately, it’s Facebook – now Meta – which is the victim of this legal crusade.
Bitcoin scams with stars
It all starts in 2019 with the “Bitcoin Profit” case, which is symptomatic of the “celebrity scam” phenomenon. First, advertisements around fake news articles sent users to the site ‘economicsworld[dot]info’. Then, the platform promised up to 4,000% returns on a bitcoin investment. Finally, and to back it all up, you could see the faces and testimonials of celebrities like Elon Musk, Richard Branson (founder of Virgin), Bill Gates and Kate Winslet. Of course, all this was fake and the unfortunate investors never saw their precious bitcoins again. Since then, fraudulent sites operating on the same principle have multiplied: “Bitcoin Revolution”, “Bitcoin Evolution” or “Bitcoin Trader”.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has been warning investors to be careful for years. A spokesperson for the “watchdog” – the institution’s unofficial nickname – details the modus operandi of the new scammers:
“These websites advertise using the image of celebrities and run these ads on social networks like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. When an investor clicks on an article or ad, they are sent to a ‘mirror site,’ which is a fake version of an official site such as the ABC News news site.”
Personally affected, one Australian celebrity decided to pound the table and take the matter to court. Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, Australian metals magnate and CEO of Fortescue Metals Group, has decided to sue Meta for fraudulent use of his name and image. The beginning of legal troubles for the Californian firm.
The Australian justice has launched proceedings against Meta and its social network Facebook for disseminating fraudulent advertising for cryptos.
Facebook accused of “letting” the scammers do it
Australian millionaire accuses Meta of breaking Australian laws by allowing fraudulent ads to circulate. This would represent a violation of Section 10 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code on money laundering. The Court of First Instance of Western Australia is planning a first hearing on March 28. This will be followed by a hearing of the defendants during 2022.
But the problems don’t end there for Meta! Forrest’s lawyers have also filed a civil suit in the Superior Court of California. The case is currently being heard and no hearing date has been announced. The Facebook Users Association of Australia supports Forrest’s action and explains why:
“Andrew Forrest is an icon to millions of Australians and many hold him in high regard. Anything about him could be seen as legitimate by the general public, especially if it is officially broadcast on Facebook.
For the same reason, Waleed Aly, a well-known writer, lawyer and academic from Melbourne, has also joined the dock. He joins a class action suit led by ASIC which also concerns the movie stars Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kindman.
Meta is accused of not doing enough to “detect, prevent and remove” fake ads on its network. Will the courts sanction the multinational? This would undoubtedly set a precedent and clean up the crypto ecosystem plagued by scams.