Facebook cracks down on celebrity scam ad ‘epidemic’

Facebook has launched a major new initiative to combat the scourge of scam adverts that dupe vulnerable people into handing over thousands of pounds to criminals.

Facebook executiuve Steve Hatch made a joint announcement at a press conference with Martin Lewis, the founder of MoneySavingExpert, revealing a dedicated new scam-ad reporting tool.

A £3 million donation to Citizens Advice action project (CASA) from the social network will fund the new tool, though it won’t go live until May

Mr Lewis launched high court proceedings against the technology giant in April 2018 after his name and image were falsely used to promote scams on the platform.

In a blog post published in 2018, Mr Lewis wrote that his aim was not to go to court over the matter but instead to Facebook publishing scam ads.

“For over a year scam ads with my name and image in have been rife on Facebook. I’d counted at least 50, though [Facebook] admitted it’s actually thousands,” he wrote.

“We’d tried to contact the social media bohemoth, to ask it to stop publishing them, but its response (or lack of it) was, in my view, appallingly negligent and uncaring.”

Mr Lewis said he resorted to hiring lawyers to protect his reputation and prevent more vulnerable people from being scammed.

As part of the latest annoucnement, Mr Lewis said he had agreed to drop his lawsuit against Facebook.

While raising awareness to the issue through various media appearances, Mr Lewis said the “most disgusting” instance of the scam ads was one that claimed he had invested half a million pounds into a cloud trading scheme. “It is a con, it is a scam,” he said in August, “It is a brilliant way to lose money.”

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Facebook received money from the scammers, who paid to promote the ads to Facebook users.

Facebook previously relied on users to report suspicious adverts in order to prevent such scams. When Mr Lewis first filed the lawsuit, Facebook responded by saying: “We’ve explained to Mr Lewis how to report these ads.”

Speaking at a joint press conference on Wednesday 23 January, Mr Lewis said: “There is an of scam activity going on in the UK right now.

“It shouldn’t have taken the threat of legal action to get here. Yet once we started talking, Facebook quickly realised the scale of the problem, its impact on real people, and agreed to commit to making a difference both on its own platform, and across the wider sector.”

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