Sydney, Feb 3: Australian billionaire businessman Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has launched criminal proceedings against Meta in the Magistrates Court of Western Australia, alleging that the tech giant has committed offences against Australia’s anti-money laundering laws.
The action is being taken on behalf of everyday Australians who have lost money to clickbait advertising scams and is the first time Facebook has faced criminal charges globally.
Forrest has also launched civil proceedings in California against Meta.
The three Commonwealth charges allege Meta 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.
It is alleged such scam advertisements, which have used Forrest’s image, and claim to promote cryptocurrency investment schemes, have appeared on Facebook since March 2019.
It is also alleged that Facebook failed to create controls or a corporate culture to prevent its systems being used to commit crime.
The criminal charges are brought under Part 10 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code with the consent of the Commonwealth Attorney General.
The legal action follows many requests by Forrest asking Facebook to prevent his image from being used by criminals to scam Australian users, including an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg in Nov 2019.
“I’m doing this because I’m concerned about innocent Australians being scammed through clickbait advertising on social media.
“I’m committed to ensuring that social media operators don’t allow their sites to be used by criminal syndicates,” Forrest said.
“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. I’m acting here for Australians, but this is happening all over the world.
“I want social media companies 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.”
An initial hearing before the WA Magistrates Court will be held on March 28, with a committal hearing likely to follow later in the year.
The separate US civil case against Meta, which was filed in Sept 2021, seeks injunctive relief and other remedies and is pending in the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo (Case No. 21-CIV-05055).
Editors’ note: References to Facebook are references to the company formerly known as Facebook Inc, which has recently changed its name to Meta Platforms, Inc.
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