Australia watchdog sues Facebook-owner Meta over “false” cryptocurrency ads

Woman holds smartphone with Meta logo in front of a displayed Facebook’s new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration picture taken October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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March 18 (Reuters) – Australian competition watchdog has begun proceedings against Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc (FB.O), alleging the social media company engaged in false or misleading cryptocurrency advertisements in the country, it said on Friday.

Meta published ads featuring “prominent Australian public figures” promoting cryptocurrency investment or money-making schemes, which according to the regulator were “scams” that were likely to have misled users into believing them.

“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,” the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC)said.

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The regulator is seeking declarations, injunctions, penalties, costs and other orders. Meta did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The regulator said Facebook users were diverted to a “fake media article” that included quotes from public figures endorsing a cryptocurrency or money-making scheme, asking them to sign up and subsequent coercion by scammers into depositing funds in the fake schemes.

“We allege that the technology of Meta enabled these ads to be targeted to users most likely to engage with the ads,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“Meta assured its users it would detect and prevent spam and promote safety on Facebook, but it failed to prevent the publication of other similar celebrity endorsement cryptocurrency scam ads.”

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Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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