Posted by Philip Banks-Welsh, Partner
Martin Lewis and the Facebook ‘face-off’ – why is he suing Facebook over someone else’s ads?
Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, is to launch defamation proceedings against Facebook over claims that more than 50 fake advertisements featuring his face and name have recently appeared on the popular social media platform.
Martin Lewis is seeking punitive damages, asserting that Facebook failed to prevent and/or swiftly remove false advertising that not only tarnished his long standing reputation but also induced many vulnerable victims into parting with their money.
What were the adverts about?
Of the numerous ‘get rich quick’ schemes many of the most prevalent adverts centre around Bitcoin investment or Cloud trading. These are often fronts for binary trading firms which are based outside the EU and are therefore not stringently regulated. Binary trading is generally considered to carry a high degree of financial risk and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) strongly warns against engaging in such activities.
Is Facebook’s response good enough?
Facebook has responded by saying that misleading adverts are not allowed on their website and any reported are removed. Lewis suggests that even where issues are reported, many adverts are left in place for days or weeks, and even when they are finally removed, they are quickly replaced by the scammers. The general feeling that Facebook is doing nowhere near enough to address the issue is a significant factor in Martin Lewis’ decision to take action.
What does Martin Lewis hope to achieve by doing this?
Martin Lewis has indicated that the defamation claim is not necessarily designed to result in an award of damages but rather is intended to force Facebook to change its advertising policy whilst raising awareness amongst social media users that advertisements are not always genuine. He has also pledged that any money awarded within the legal action will be donated to anti-scam charities.
The more significant legal issues that will be considered include an analysis of the legal jurisdiction within which Facebook is deemed to operate and also whether Facebook has a legal responsibility for the content that is published on its platform.
Undoubtedly the case will offer significant insights into whether, and if so how, the courts are inclined to develop current defamation law in a social media context and media lawyers will be following the case closely as it progresses.
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