Meta has failed to have a lawsuit over celebrity crypto scam ads that appeared on Facebook dismissed while it faces criminal charges in Western Australia.
Last week, the Federal Court threw out Meta’s application to stay proceedings the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) brought against the company early last year, calling the tech giant’s application “premature”.
The ACCC is suing Meta over what it described as “disgraceful” ads that featured the images of prominent Australians on fake news articles that promoted cryptocurrency and investment scams.
Scammers created and placed the ads into people’s news feeds using Facebook’s automated advertising system.
Mining magnate Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest brought simultaneous criminal charges against Meta shortly before the ACCC in an unusual case for which Forrest first sought permission from the Attorney General.
Forrest claimed Meta was criminally reckless by letting scam ads featuring his image on Facebook and had been dealing with the proceeds of crime by accepting money for advertising from the scammers.
Meta’s lawyers unsuccessfully argued that the ACCC’s civil proceedings could prejudice the criminal case that is still in a pre-trial phase in WA’s courts.
“I am not persuaded that the interests of justice require an immediate stay of all interlocutory steps,” Justice Cheeseman said in his judgement.
“Active case management with an eye to ameliorating the risks identified by Meta on this application during the pendency of the criminal trial will enable the civil proceeding to continue to progress at this stage.”
The full judgement is almost entirely redacted thanks to Meta successfully arguing for confidentiality while the Forrest case goes ahead.
In early October, Meta demanded Forrest hand over more documents including private emails between the billionaire and expert witnesses with a summons that Forrest’s lawyer said lacked “a legitimate forensic purpose” and had “no relevance to the case”.
“Given how long this has been going on, the length of time this has been ongoing, your honour ought not to make further orders for disclosure,” the lawyer said, per the Guardian.
Back in 2019, Forrest published an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg in which he railed against the Facebook founder for letting people lose their life savings through scams advertised on his platform.
“You have the power and the technology to prevent these scam advertisements from running on your platform,” Forrest said.
“Is revenue more important to you than the life savings of elderly people, Mr Zuckerberg?”