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Australia’s consumer watchdog will take Facebook owner Meta to court over the publishing of scam cryptocurrency investment ads that feature celebrity faces.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) today instituted Federal Court proceedings against Meta, alleging they engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct by having the scams published on their Facebook platform.

The scam ads typically featured a high-profile Australian figure such as mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest or TV personality David Koch.
Police have warned of increased scam activity over the holidays.
The ACCC alleges that Facebook (now Meta) was aware of the scams occurring. (AAP)

When clicked, the ads would lead the user to a fake media article in which the public figure endorsed a money-making scheme, typically in cryptocurrency.

ACCC chair Rod Sims said the watchdog will allege in court that Meta was aware of the scam ads being placed on its platform and did not take sufficient steps to have them removed or stopped.

In some instances, the ads remained online even after the specific celebrity falsely named in them complained directly to Facebook.

The celebrity scams used trustworthy faces to lure people into investment scams. (Getty)

“The essence of our case is that Meta is responsible for these ads that it publishes on its platform,” Mr 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.”

Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest,, who has bought RM Williams, and his wife Nicola, in Perth in January.
In February Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest (right) commenced his own criminal proceedings against Meta. (Philip Gostelow)

Mr Sims said the victims of the scams were twofold – both the people who lost money as a result of believing the ads and the public figures whose reputation was tarred having been associated with the ads.

“Apart from resulting in untold losses to consumers, these ads also damage the reputation of the public figures falsely associated with the ads. Meta failed to take sufficient steps to stop fake ads featuring public figures, even after those public figures reported to Meta that their name and image were being featured in celebrity endorsement cryptocurrency scam ads,” Mr Sims said.

“In one shocking instance, we are aware of a consumer who lost more than $650,000 due to one of these scams being falsely advertised as an investment opportunity on Facebook. This is disgraceful.”

The ACCC’s proceedings come just weeks after Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest commenced his own criminal proceedings against Meta after having been implicated in one of the ads.

Scam statistics in Australia.
Scam statistics in Australia. (9News)

The ACCC said while their case is similar to Mr Forrest’s, and in some instances refers to similar advertisements, the case is “separate and concerns different questions of law”.

In a statement provided to 9News.com.au, a spokesperson for Meta said Facebook intends to defend the proceedings and shares the view that scam ads should not be present.

“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,” the spokesperson said.

“We use technology to detect and block scam ads and work to get ahead of scammers’ attempts to evade our detection systems. We’ve cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation into this matter to date.

New scam emails impersonating Australia Post

Scams to watch out for

“We will review the recent filing by the ACCC and intend to defend the proceedings. We are unable to further comment on the detail of the case as it is before the Federal Court.”

Source: 9News

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