ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) is getting a legal proceeding going against Meta, Facebook’s owner, for not preventing the spread of scam ads on its platform. It hasn’t taken any proper steps to handle this issue.
According to the Australian watchdog, Facebook is involved in “false and misleading conduct” for which it is going to seek costs, orders, and penalties against such a giant social media platform. Facebook has also been observed to be featuring renowned Australian celebrities in its ads without their permission.
This a violation of both the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Act and Australian Consumer Law (ACL) which the ACCC strongly condemns.
From Fraud to Money-Making Schemes – Where Does It End?
The complaints don’t just end in the violation of two Australian laws.
The ACCC has further accused Facebook of deliberately being a part of this ad fraud in which advertisers are using the platform for scamming. However, Meta has completely denied the accusations stating that it already allows its consumers to report or block the ad which they find suspicious.
The tech giant, Meta, also added that it doesn’t promote ads which violate its policies as they are not good for the community. To lessen further damage to the face of the company, Meta is working harder to stop scammers with their constant attempts of messing up with its internal systems. Moreover, the case filed by ACCC is under review, and Meta has found the best representation to defend itself in legal proceedings.
ACCC claims that the Facebook scam ads are promoting fake money-making schemes and programs featuring renowned celebrities which have nothing to do with it. These ads have links that further take consumers to media articles where multiple fake quotes are being attributed to the celebrities.
It encourages the consumers to sign up and deposit funds. Immediately after, consumers also end up getting repeated calls, emails, and messages to convince them to fall prey to this fake scheme.
Targeted Celebrities Paved the Way for Better Laws for Online Safety
Several celebrities have complained that their names and pictures are being used without their consent in fake Facebook ads. However, Facebook didn’t take any action, and those ads continued being displayed.
In 2018, Martin Lewis also sued Facebook for featuring him in scam ads that aimed to swindle consumers in the UK. The legal proceedings ended in 2019 after Facebook agreed to make some changes to its platform to keep its consumers safe from scam ads.
The lawsuit ended, but Lewis continued fighting against scam ads. He played an important role in making important laws for online protection and safety. Meanwhile, Australia also passed a bill that was limited and focused on the protection from abusive content, i.e. cyberbullying, terrorism, CSAM, etc.
The country is now relying on the existing laws, but the question that arises is this: Are these laws enough to protect the consumers from the scam ads of Meta?
How Safe Can People Be on Facebook?
A giant social media platform like Facebook relies on consumer data and profiles to target its audience. Any sort of limitations on its ad business can cause a drastic impact on its revenues. ACCC wants the legal action to be in its favor to ensure that Facebook takes proper measures. Their claims include that of Facebook allowing the use of targeting tools that help scammers target the right audience who are more likely to click on their ads.
The case can take an interesting turn if ACCC starts digging deep into how scammers are able to use Facebook’s targeting tool to ensure that their scam ads work more effectively. Europe is already making smart moves by putting limits on the tracking ads of certain platforms. Meanwhile, Meta is not even taking responsibility for the ads it’s publishing on its platforms which are leading the consumers to their downfall.
The chairman of the ACCC stated that Meta is running its ad business by the use of targeting ads to increase the rate of engagement. It assures its consumers that it would keep them safe from spam, but it has failed in providing them with protection.
Meta could have done more to detect and remove scam ads from its platform. This not only causes monetary losses to consumers but also damages the reputation of celebrities who are falsely being associated with the scam ad.
How Can Scam Ads Fall Through Facebook’s Cracks?
Another point to ponder is how such a giant social media platform is now unable to tackle scam ads by applying the same kind of technology to flag for-review ads that have faces and names of specific public figures who have been targeted repeatedly. Even with Meta successfully utilizing facial recognition technology to auto-tag its users in photo upload, how can they not create some kind of technology to fix their biggest issue?
Moreover, there is no clarity from Meta’s side regarding how many scam ads it’s clearing. According to Meta, 1.5 billion has been reported for “content actioned on Spam.”
Facebook is supposed to provide “Transparency” in its report, according to its own claim. However, the figure it shared doesn’t tell anything about what a single piece of “Spam” consists of.
It needs to define what it means or in what context it is using the word “Spam.” The term “actioned” also doesn’t necessarily mean that it has removed the content. It might have just sent a warning or disabled the accounts.
Even the reported actions of such a big platform cannot be trusted as it is based on the content that it is amplifying and monetizing itself. Also, because of the absence of explicit legal requirements and policies, there is a lack of genuine accountability and actual check and balance.