August 10, 2022

Australia’s consumer affairs regulator has launched legal proceedings against Meta Platforms Inc., parent company of Facebook, over a series of ads for digital asset investment scams. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) alleges Meta either knew the ads were misleading, or assisted the scammers in attracting their target audience, while benefiting from placement revenue.

The ACCC’s move follows separate civil and criminal actions launched against Meta by Australia’s second-wealthiest individual Andrew Forrest back in February. Dr. Forrest was one of several celebrities and public figures who found their images and “endorsements” used in fake news articles promoting digital currency investment schemes that stole millions of dollars from naive users. Forrest’s criminal suit against Meta was set to begin in the Magistrate’s Court of Western Australia on March 28.

The ACCC said its own case involved different questions of law to Dr. Forrest’s. Chair Rod Sims said the ACCC’s case would focus on Meta’s responsibility for allowing the ads to be published, alleging the company was aware of their existence but took neither swift nor efficient action to stop them, earning placement revenue from the scammers in the meantime.

“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,” Sims said. “Those visits…

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