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Op-Ed: Major lawsuit for Facebook includes billionaire, cryptocurrency, and money laundering

This court case has global ramifications. All the issues raised by Mr. Forrest are perfectly valid grounds for a lawsuit.

© AFP
© AFP

This may well be one of the most interesting lawsuits ever faced by Facebook. Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest has filed a major complaint alleging that Facebook failed to take down his image on multiple advertisements promoting cryptocurrency investments.

This case includes just about everything notoriously affecting Facebook, in so many ways, including criminal allegations against Facebook:

  • Unauthorized use of a personal image for promotional purposes.
  • Possible breach of money laundering laws in relation to cryptocurrency promotions.
  • These promotions are believed to be scams. Forrest claims that Facebook failed to “… prevent its systems to be used to commit crime”.

Forrest describes his action as a “world first” to protect the public from scammers. He’s probably right. This case contains a quite literal wealth of fundamental elements regarding social media advertising and scams.

Cryptocurrency scams aren’t exactly unknown online. The massive hype regarding Bitcoin has done a lot of damage worldwide, particularly to small investors.

Facebook, of course, is a natural venue for scams. Not so long ago Facebook was accused of allowing fake ads in its Marketplace section, yet another folksy unregulated tradition in online advertising.

(This is what happens when people become so infatuated with deregulation. Endless legal grey areas are created for no reason at all. Laws are left well behind legal realities. Add to this the myth that anything online is somehow immune to legal action, which nothing ever has been or will be, and this is the environment you get.)

The risk to the public is undeniable. The risk could be all the more serious in the social media environment, where user information could be accessed.

Forrest also has a very legitimate bone to pick with Facebook regarding the use of his image. He is a very high-profile businessman in Australia with an excellent reputation. In any kind of investment environment, he has major credentials. His obvious anger has plenty of basis in fact.

This use of his image is also a classic major privacy issue for a lot of people. Why is anyone’s image used without permission and payment in any commercial content? Your personal image is not somebody else’s property. Your image could be a personal security risk in some environments like political advertising or in relation to controversial issues.

Facebook, (which now apparently responds to the name Meta), was unable to comment on this lawsuit. The company said it was committed to protecting users and managing such ads, which violate their policies.

A major call for the courts

This court case has global ramifications. All the issues raised by Mr. Forrest are perfectly valid grounds for a lawsuit. They will also have direct applications in any court on Earth regarding a very wide range of illegal practices in online advertising. This case will effectively set a precedent in most English-speaking countries by virtue of their very similar laws.

From Facebook’s perspective, there is an interesting perspective. This court case, if successful, could be a very strong legal basis for Facebook to crack down on this type of advertising.

Frankly, it would probably be better for Facebook to let this case go through and simply not contest it. With an actual finding in place, the legal argument for Facebook in future cases would be irrefutable.

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Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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