Meta sued by Australian watchdog over scam crypto advertisements

The ads promoted cryptocurrency investments and linked to fake media articles that endorsed the schemes.
Image: Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc. is being sued by Australia’s competition watchdog, which alleges the social-media giant misled users by publishing scam advertisements featuring unwitting local celebrities.

The ads promoted cryptocurrency investments and linked to fake media articles that endorsed the schemes, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission said Friday. Facebook users probably believed the promotions were associated with the famous people in the ads, who included businessman Dick Smith and television presenter David Koch, even though they had never approved them, the watchdog said.

Meta, which also owns Instagram, “engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct,” the ACCC said. The firm’s technology enabled these ads to be targeted at the most susceptible users, the watchdog said. One individual lost more than A$650,000 ($480,000), according to the statement.

“The essence of our case is that Meta is responsible for these ads that it publishes on its platform,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said. “It is alleged that Meta was aware that the celebrity endorsement cryptocurrency scam ads were being displayed on Facebook, but did not take sufficient steps to address the issue.”

“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.” a Sydney-based spokeswoman for Meta said in a statement. “We will review the recent filing by the ACCC and intend to defend the proceedings.”

© 2022 Bloomberg

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