May 26, 2022

Earlier this month, some users scrolling through Facebook may have seen an unexpected message, apparently from CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself.

Facebook recently rebranded itself as Meta, and the advertisement, which included a photo of Zuckerberg in front of a background of purple polygons, claimed to offer a chance for users to invest in a new Meta cryptocurrency.

Another ad, posted around the same time and also promoted on Facebook, was tied to a page called “Metaverse” and similarly offered a shot at a presale of the upcoming “Meta token,” saying “the thrilling digital future has arrived.” The ads both included Meta’s new logo, an infinity sign.

But Meta doesn’t offer any such cryptocurrency. The ads, until recently available for view in Facebook’s public ad library, were frauds that slipped through Facebook’s content moderation process, despite the use of Zuckerberg’s image and the company’s new logo.

Meta’s rules for advertisers on Facebook place strict limits on how ads sell cryptocurrency, but The Markup identified several pages that recently placed ads for nonexistent “tokens” using the logos of large tech companies and even the faces of some of Big Tech’s most prominent people, including Zuckerberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

While scams in Facebook ads aren’t a new phenomenon and cryptocurrency scams have plagued platforms well beyond Facebook, these ads are particularly brazen: a network of…

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