June 5, 2019
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch billionaire businessman John de Mol filed a lawsuit against Facebook in an Amsterdam court on Wednesday, saying the social media giant had allowed fake ads on its platform using his name and image to perpetrate Bitcoin-related fraud.
Lawyers for De Mol, best known as the creator of the “Big Brother” reality television program, told an Amsterdam District Court judge that the company had failed to prevent the ads and had not responded in a timely fashion to complaints.
Lawyer Jacqueline Schaap said De Mol’s reputation suffered damage when people clicked on the ads and were defrauded.
The ads, which have been removed, enticed people to send money to purchase Bitcoin or participate in fake cryptocurrency-related businesses with claims of De Mol’s involvement or backing.
Lawyers for De Mol said that consumers had been swindled out of 1.7 million euros ($1.9 million) by the De Mol-linked ads, and that he was only one of several Dutch celebrities targeted.
Facebook should take preemptive action to block such ads, and its current vetting system, which relies in part on self-reporting problems, was not enough, Schaap said.
“I don’t know what reality Facebook lives in, but that doesn’t work,” she said.
Facebook had yet to respond in court to De Mol’s complaint seeking a summary judgment. Before the filing Facebook’s Rob Leathern, a manager at the Menlo Park, California-based company, told reporters the company took the complaint seriously.
“We take the issue of misleading ads that violate our policy, and those that feature public figures, very seriously. These include the ads impacting Mr. De Mol,” he said.
He said Facebook was trying its best to prevent fraudulent ads, but that it does not always succeed.
“The people who push these kinds of ads are persistent, they are well-funded and they are constantly evolving their deceptive tactics to get around our systems,” Leathern said.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling, editing by Deepa Babington)