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Criminal proceedings issued against Meta for false cryptocurrency ads

Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest has launched criminal proceedings against Meta (formerly Facebook) for false cryptocurrency advertisements.

Forrest alleged that Meta has breached Australian money laundering laws by permitting misleading cryptocurrency ads that featured images of Forrest to promote scam coins. The case was brought before the Western Australian Magistrates Court whereby Forrest argued that Meta was criminally reckless in allowing such ads to stay online. The false representation of Forrest in cryptocurrency ad scams has been occurring since 2019 when Forrest sent repeated letters to Mark Zuckerberg requesting the removal of such ads. The Commonwealth Attorney-General permitted these charges pursuant to Part 10 of the Criminal Code with an initial hearing occurring on 28 March 2022. Additionally, Forrest has issued simultaneous civil proceedings in the Supreme Court of California against Meta for injunctive relief.

Forrest’s Australian proceedings have also initiated an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer (ACCC) watchdog into Meta’s fraudulent ads. The ACCC has been aware that other celebrities, such as Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman, have been unknowingly exploited to draw users into investment scams on Meta. The ACCC argues that Meta negligently allowed crypto scammers to breach Australian consumer law by defrauding users of hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, the ACCC has stated that its case is separate from Forrest’s due to its focus on consumer law rather than criminal law.

A Meta spokesperson provided a general comment on the state of scammers, saying Meta do not wish for users on their platform to be misled by bad actors. However, nothing formal has been said about the case yet. As our society and economy are further dragged into the digital realm, it is imperative that social media companies such as Meta create safe spaces for online users.

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