Social Media

Meta Sued by Australian Regulator Over Scam Ads

The regulator says Facebook's parent company didn't do enough to protect users from being targeted with fake cryptocurrency and money-making scams.

An Australian regulator says Meta put money making over consumer safety.

An Australian regulator is suing Meta Platforms, charging that the company didn't do enough to keep scammers from targeting Facebook users with ads touting fake cryptocurrency and money-making schemes.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission alleges in the federal court suit that the ads were likely to trick Facebook users into believing the promoted schemes were endorsed by the well-known Australian businesspeople, TV personalities and politicians featured in them. 

But the schemes were actually scams and the people featured in the ads had never approved or endorsed them, the ACCC says.

Meta didn't immediately respond to a CNET request for comment, but the company told The Wall Street Journal that it has cooperated with the ACCC's investigation and intends to defend itself in court. It added that it uses technology to detect and block scam ads and tries to get ahead of scammers' attempts to evade its detection systems.

According to the ACCC, the ads contained links that took Facebook users to a fake article that included quotes attributed to the public figure featured in the ad endorsing the schemes. Users were then invited to sign up and were later contacted by scammers who pressured them into depositing funds into the fake schemes.

"The essence of our case is that Meta is responsible for these ads that it publishes on its platform," ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a statement.

Sims also noted that helping advertisers target the users that are most likely to click on the links in their ads is in Meta's interest, because it generates a great deal of revenue for the company.

The ACCC claims that Meta was aware of the scam ads, but didn't do enough to address the issue. In addition, the scam ads were still being displayed on Facebook even after public figures around the world had complained that their names and photos had been used in similar ads without their approval.

The commission is seeking declarations, injunctions, penalties, costs and other orders.