Facebook ordered to remove fake Bitcoin ads or pay $1.2 million

A Dutch court has ordered Facebook to remove advertisements for phony Bitcoin investment schemes that feature local entrepreneur John de Mol, according to a report today from Reuters.

De Mol—a billionaire best known for creating the hit “Big Brother” reality television series—initially sued Facebook back in June of this year over the fake ads that make use of his likeness on the social network. De Mol said in his lawsuit that he has nothing to do with the Bitcoin ads and did not give permission for his face to be used in their promotion.

Facebook must now either remove the ads or pay $1.2 million in penalties, according to the court’s order.

According to the lawsuit, the fake Bitcoin ads using Del Mol’s likeness first appeared on Facebook over the summer. But despite his repeated protests, Facebook did nothing to stop the ads, De Mol claims. The “Big Brother” creator says that the scams have cost investors a combined total of nearly 2 million euros.

The suit is further requesting that all information Facebook has on the scammers be handed over to De Mol. It also asks that the company take steps to ensure similar advertising doesn’t occur in the future.

Jacqueline Schaap—a lawyer for de Mol—said at the time the lawsuit was filed that Facebook’s current system of having users report problems on the network themselves isn’t doing enough to stop fraud or other malicious activity. “I don’t know what reality Facebook lives in, but that doesn’t work,” she told Reuters.

The Dutch court overseeing the case seemingly agreed. “Facebook’s arguments that it is just a neutral funnel for information, and therefore cannot be obligated to act, is not acceptable,” the court said in a summary judgement. “The company plays too active a role with respect to advertisements, which form its primary business model, to argue that.”

Facebook has a particularly dark history involving advertising. The Cambridge Analytica scandal—which came to light in early 2018—involved Facebook selling users’ private data for advertising purposes. The company later walked away with a $5 billion fine—which, in Facebook’s world, amounted to a slap on the wrist.

But Facebook’s legal troubles associated with the scandal isn’t over. Just last week, the state of California filed a separate suit against Facebook regarding the company’s ties to Cambridge, according to The New York Times.

The company has also taken serious flack for its purportedly weak policies regarding “shady” political advertisements. Facebook announced in March of last year that it would work to strengthen and improve these policies.

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