Advertisements make up a chunk of Facebook-owner Meta’s revenue. However, the same has now landed the company in hot waters as it is being sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Australia’s competition watchdog has alleged that it misled its users and failed to prevent the taking down of scam advertisements that featured prominent figures.
The advertisements in question have endorsed investments in cryptocurrencies or money-making schemes, and Meta failed to take them down. Keeping the ads on Facebook, the popular social media platform, had the potential to mislead users into believing that they were promoted by prominent Australians.
Some of the personalities included businessman Dick Smith, former NSW Premier Mike Baird, and television presenter David Koch, however, they had never approved or endorsed them.
It is also alleged that Facebook “aided and abetted or was knowingly concerned in false or misleading conduct and representations by the advertisers,” and Meta had engaged in what it said was false, misleading, or deceptive conduct.
According to ACCC chair Rod Sims, Meta was aware of the running of scam advertisements on Facebook but did not take sufficient steps to counter them. “The essence of our case is that Meta is responsible for these ads that it publishes on its platform,” he said. This benefits the company as well – it enables advertisers to target users who are most likely to click on the link in an ad, something that is possible using Facebook’s algorithms. The visits to landing pages from ads generate substantial revenue for Facebook, and in extension, Meta.
Looking deeper into the issue with ads, we find that they contained links that took Facebook users to media articles, which included quotes attributed to the public figures in the advertisements. These articles were fake, of course, and invited users to sign up. Later, they were contacted by scammers who managed to convince users to deposit funds into the schemes. A customer lost over $4,80,000 due to one of these scams.
This is not the first instance of such an occurrence, and these ads continued to persist on Facebook even after public figures around the world complained that their names and images had been used in similar ads without their consent.
Meta defended itself by saying that it will review the latest filing by the ACCC and intended to defend the proceedings. Advertisements that scammed people or misled users violated its policies, and it uses technology to detect and block such ads. It added that it cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation into this matter to date.”