$940,000 AUD is the amount that one Australian victim lost to a crypto scam because of a false cryptocurrency advertisement that used the image of Aussie billionaire Andrew Forrest.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-off incident. All sorts of celebrities, ranging from Hugh Jackman to Nicole Kidman, have been used in ads without consent in a bid to portray them as supporters of crypto scams. Well, Andrew Forrest has had enough, deciding to take criminal action against the social media conglomerate known as Meta, who according to Forrest, was “criminally reckless’ for failing to police these harmful crypto advertisements.
Everything you need to know
What is the scam?
Andrew Forrest (chairman of Fortescue Metals, the fourth-largest iron ore producer in the world), has filed a criminal lawsuit against Meta, alleging that they’ve failed to remove posts by scammers that use images of him and other celebrities to portray them as endorsers of harmful crypto investments since March 2019. His main intent? To deter Facebook from being used as an instrument of crime that swindles hard-working users out of their money.
“This legal action follows many attempts by me asking Facebook to prevent my image from being used by criminals to scam Australian users, innocent mums and dads, hard-working Australians, and hard-working people around the world,” said Forrest.
Given that Australians lost $29.2 million AUD to crypto scams, in the first half of 2021 alone, this is unquestionably an issue that extends further than just a victim every now and then, with even Forrest’s lawyers asserting the vast scope of this “vicious scam.”
Meta didn’t heed the warnings.
This was far from the beginning of the story though, as Forrest had actually sent an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg back in November 2019. The letter publicly criticised the formerly-named Facebook for allowing crypto scams to proliferate. In it, Forrest alleges that the social media giant was knowingly profiting from the cycle of illegal ads.
More importantly, it warned that innocent people were losing their life savings after being misled by scam crypto ads using his photos. As we know, this warning was unfortunately not heeded.
How do these scams get by a hundred-billion dollar empire?
It’s not wrong to question how the largest social media site on the internet lets such a massive issue get by unsolved for years on end. The unfortunate truth is that scammers are able to bypass the filters of social media companies through a practice called “cloaking”.
GeoEdge, an ad-security firm, describes this as a technique that scammers use to show different content to internal ad reviewers and to ad viewers, thereby sneaking through checks.
When will the hearing commence?
An initial hearing of Forrest’s complaint will take place later next month, on March 28th. It will be held in the Western Australian Magistrates Court and could be an important moment in history.
Forrest has declared this the “world’s first” action on behalf of everyday Australians, to keep their savings from being swindled. If successful, this could be the catalyst to compel the social media giant to change their advertising mechanisms – for good.
“I’m acting here for Australians, but this is happening all over the world.”
How will this affect Meta?
As of the time of writing, Meta’s response was fairly expected, with a spokesperson stating for the record that the social media platform does not want ads seeking to scam or mislead people. However, Forrest’s lawsuit may pose a bigger problem for them than they’re letting on, as it’s simply the latest in a long string of bad news.
For starters, Meta’s share price plunged 26 percent earlier this month in the biggest single-day slide in market value for a US company, erasing over $270 billion AUD from their market capitalisation.