Australian mining entrepreneur Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest is tackling the scourge of clickbait cryptocurrency advertising scams on social media with a landmark criminal case launched against Facebook.
Forrest is making a double-barrel attack on the social media giant with criminal proceedings filed in the Magistrates Court of Western Australia and a separate civil action launched in California in September last year.
The billionaire founder of Fortescue Metals (ASX: FMG) is taking the action in frustration over scammers using his image to dupe consumers into scam cryptocurrency investments.
The WA proceedings, the first time Facebook has faced criminal action anywhere in the world, allege that the tech giant has breached Australia’s anti-money laundering laws.
A statement from Forrest says the action has been launched ‘on behalf of everyday Australians who have lost money to clickbait advertising scams’.
“This is not just everyday Australians,” says Forrest.
“This is happening all over the world. Innocent people are losing money as I speak to clickbait advertising scams.”
Forrest has alleged that Facebook was “criminally reckless by not taking sufficient steps to stop criminals from using its social media platform to send scam advertisements to defraud Australian users”.
The claims stem from scam advertisements using Forrest’s image, as well as other high-profile figures, to promote cryptocurrency investment schemes. These advertisements are said to have appeared on Facebook since March 2019.
The criminal charges, brought under Part 10 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, allege that Facebook failed to create controls or a corporate culture that prevented its systems being used to commit crime.
The charges relate to Facebook Inc, which has recently changed its name to Meta Platforms Inc.
Forrest says the charges have been brought after repeated requests to Facebook to prevent his image being used in these scams. This includes an open letter he penned to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2019 describing the behaviour as ‘abhorrent’.
“I’m doing this because I’m concerned about innocent Australians being scammed through clickbait advertising on social media,” Forrest says of the legal action.
“I’m committed to ensuring that social media operators don’t allow their sites to be used by criminal syndicates.
“This action is being taken on behalf of those everyday Australians – mums and dads, grans and grandads – who work all their lives to gather their savings and to ensure those savings aren’t swindled away by scammers.”
Forrest is gunning for social media companies to encourage them to use ‘much more of their vast resources and billions of dollars in annual revenue to protect vulnerable people – the people who are targeted and fall victim to these horrible scams with their hard-earned savings’.
“Social media is part of our lives, but it’s in the public interest for more to be done to ensure fraud on social media platforms is eliminated or significantly reduced.”
The criminal matter is scheduled to be heard at the WA Magistrates Court on 28 March, with a committal hearing likely later in the year.
The US civil case against Facebook is pending in the Superior Court of California.
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