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Facebook facing criminal charges in Australia for scam ads featuring billionaire's image

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By Shawn Lim | Reporter, Asia Pacific

February 4, 2022 | 4 min read

Facebook is facing a criminal investigation in Australia after billionaire Andrew Forrest took the tech giant to task for scam ads that used his image.

Forrest, the chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, has accused Facebook of being criminally reckless by not doing enough to stop criminals from using its platform to send scam advertisements that aimed to defraud Australian users.

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The criminal charges in the Western Australia court are the first time Facebook is facing criminal charges in the world

He alleged that the scam advertisements, which used his image and claims to promote cryptocurrency investment schemes, have appeared on Facebook since March 2019.

In addition, he also accused Facebook of failing to create controls or a corporate culture that would prevent its systems from being used to commit alleged crimes.

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The criminal charges in the Western Australia court are the first time Facebook is facing criminal charges in the world and from a private citizen.

“I’m doing this because I’m concerned about innocent Australians being scammed through clickbait advertising on social media. I’m committed to ensuring that social media operators don’t allow their sites to be used by criminal syndicates,” said Forrest.

“This action is being taken on behalf of those everyday Australians – mums and dads, grans and grandads – who work all their lives to gather their savings and to ensure those savings aren’t swindled away by scammers. I’m acting here for Australians, but this is happening all over the world.”

Forrest added that Australia’s attorney general, Michaelia Cash, approved of his actions to launch the action under the commonwealth criminal code. He had previously launched civil proceedings against Facebook in California in the United States in September 2021.

“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. We take a multifaceted approach to stop these ads,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Guardian.

“We work not just to detect and reject the ads themselves but also block advertisers from our services and, in some cases, take court action to enforce our policies. We’re committed to keeping these people off our platform.”

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