Dutch Court Orders Facebook to Remove Fake Bitcoin Ads or Pay Fine

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Cryptocurrency celebrity scams are in the spotlight again, and this time, a popular social media network will now have to take off all related content from its platform. According to a Reuters report on November 11, Facebook was ordered by a Dutch court to take off all ads for Bitcoin celebrity investment scams. 

This follows a suit against the social media company, instigated by local billionaire and television producer John de Mol.

Facebook Knew about Scammy Ads

John de Mol sued the Silicon Valley giant back in June 2019, as he claimed that it had failed to respond to several of his requests to take down ads, which promoted a Bitcoin investment scheme that sued his image, as well as those of other celebrities. In his suit, the billionaire revealed that the program had already milked off about 1.7 million Euros (about $1.8 million) from unsuspecting investors. He felt slighted that Facebook was slow in response to taking the ads down

Following the billionaire’s claim, the court ruled that Facebook should immediately pull all of the ads, adding that the company should also provide adequate information about the operators of the scam. Failure to get this done will result in a fine that could be as much as 1.1 million euros ($1.2 million). 

“Facebook’s arguments that it is just a neutral funnel for information, and therefore cannot be obligated to act, is not acceptable. The company plays too active a role concerning advertisements, which form its primary business model, to argue that,” the court reportedly said. 

Reuters also reported that Facebook had already complied with the directive, and was even considering all legal actions (including an appeal). 

In part, Facebook reportedly said, “Importantly, this ruling does not change our commitment to fighting these types of ads. We cannot stress enough that these types of ads have no place on Facebook, and we remove them when we find them.”

For Facebook, Ads are Important

Facebook and its affinity for being used to spread misleading ads have been sources of considerable controversy. Last week, the company came under heavy scrutiny when it declared that it would be going into the 2020 U.S. Presidential Elections with a lax ad policy, adding that it won’t be fact-checking any political ads that get floated on its platform. 

“From a business perspective, it might be easier for us to choose a different path than the one we’re taking. But in a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians, or the news,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an earnings conference call on November 6. 

Given that Twitter, its chief rival in the United States, announced around that time that it would be banning political ads in general, many believed that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook could learn a thing or two from their Silicon Valley neighbors. 

However, the problem lies in the business model; Facebook generates a significant portion of its revenues through ads, and telling it to censor them strictly would be equivalent to asking a man to shoot himself in the foot. 

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About Jimmy Aki

Jimmy has been following the development of blockchain for several years, and he is optimistic about its potential to democratize the financial system.