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UK consumer advocate sues Facebook for defamation over scam ads

Martin Lewis wants to make sure consumers know he never endorses any products. Scammers are making that hard by posting ads featuring him on social media.

A medium-distance photo of Martin Lewis in a dark blue button down shirt and holding a microphone in his right hand while holding up his right fist.

Martin Lewis gives a talk on debt during the Ideal Home Show 2013 in London. Lewis announced Monday he's suing Facebook for defamation.

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Martin Lewis, founder of UK consumer information site MoneySavingExpert.com, wants Facebook to do more to prevent advertisers from claiming he endorses their products. That's why he's suing the social network for defamation, he said in a statement Monday.

"Enough is enough," Lewis said. "I've been fighting for over a year to stop Facebook letting scammers use my name and face to rip off vulnerable people -- yet it continues."

Lewis said people have been cheated out of thousands of pounds in scams that use his name and image as an endorsement. 

The claims come at a time when Facebook is answering questions over how it stops abuse of its platforms. It's spent months explaining to users and lawmakers how a group of alleged Russian trolls were able to post ads and create Facebook groups to promote a campaign of misinformation and division leading up to the 2016 US presidential election.

Lewis emphasized that he doesn't participate in any advertisements or endorse any products. But ads on Facebook, Twitter and news sites have made it appear that he backs a variety of products, including automatic trading schemes, also called binary trading. A blog post on his site warns against putting any money in these trades, noting that the industry is unregulated and can lead to large losses.

"We do not allow adverts which are misleading or false on Facebook and have explained to Martin Lewis that he should report any adverts that infringe his rights and they will be removed," a Facebook spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. "We are in direct contact with his team, offering to help and promptly investigating their requests, and only last week confirmed that several adverts and accounts that violated our Advertising Policies had been taken down."

Lewis said in his announcement that it's time-consuming to find and report every ad on Facebook that uses his image, but Facebook could take care of the problem by marshaling its facial recognition technology.

"Yet it simply continues to repeatedly publish these adverts and then relies on me to report them, once the damage has been done," Lewis said.

First published Apr. 23, 12:55 p.m. PT
Update, 2:11 p.m.: Adds statement from Facebook.

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