Business 24 April 2018

Gerald Fenech

Financial analyst drags Facebook to court over scam crypto ads

Amid the bad press and the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data theft, a new development will see social media giant Facebook under renewed pressure.

Martin Lewis, founder of consumer help site MoneySavingExpert.com, announced that he is suing Facebook in the UK High Court for defamation. Lewis is considered a popular figure in the UK as he also presents The Martin Lewis Money Show on ITV as well as being the founder of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.

In his suit, Lewis claimed Facebook published well over 50 fake advertisements, which were seen on a regular basis by several million people across the United Kingdom. The adverts allegedly used Lewis’s image to promote a fake product or investment scams that serious effects on the reputation of the popular presenter.

The most popular of these Facebook ads were cryptocurrency-linked ‘Bitcoin Code’ or ‘Cloud Trader,’ which Lewis said were fronts for binary trading firms operating outside the European Union. These get rich quick schemes are almost always invariably scams and are strongly condemned by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK.

As with such suits, Lewis will not be seeking personal damages but only exemplary damages with all possible proceeds donated to charity.

Lewis said he had spent the past year fighting to stop Facebook from allowing scammers to use his name to rip off vulnerable people, some of whom have been duped into investing £100,000 in the alleged con.

“I’m not the only public face this has happened to. It’s time Facebook was made to take responsibility. It claims to be a platform not a publisher—yet this isn’t just a post on a web forum, it is being paid to publish, promulgate and promote what are often fraudulent enterprises. My hope is this lawsuit will force it to change its system. Nothing else has worked. People need protection,” Lewis said in a statement.

Lewis’s lawyer, Mark Lewis, said Facebook is not above the law and cannot think it is untouchable either. He said that they will ask the court to seek exemplary damages as the price of ‘causing misery to others’ and not just a simple accounting exercise.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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