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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Martin Lewis suing Facebook for defamation over 'fake' ads

MoneySavingExpert.com founder claims at least 50 fake Facebook advertisements are fleecing unwitting investors

MoneySavingExpert Martin Lewis is suing Facebook for defamation over 'fake' advertisements bearing his image. Reuters / Dado Ruvic
MoneySavingExpert Martin Lewis is suing Facebook for defamation over 'fake' advertisements bearing his image. Reuters / Dado Ruvic

MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis is suing Facebook in London, claiming at least 50 advertisements bearing his name are being used by con artists to prey on investors.

"Facebook is facilitating scammers robbing vulnerable people of their money. It does this by running adverts with my name and my face for get-rich-quick schemes like Bitcoin code and Bitcoin trading which are fronts for binary trading schemes," Mr Lewis said on Monday.

The law suit is significant because it intensifies the pressure on big technology firms who often operate in an unregulated environment. UK Health Minister Jeremy Hunt on Sunday accused Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and others of "turning a blind eye" to children's mental health. Facebook is also at the centre of a global data harvesting controversy linked to Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign.

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Mr Lewis said the false advertising was causing reputational damage and that he is not alone in his complaint. Sir Richard Branson and Peter Jones, star of the television show Dragon's Den, have had similar experiences, Mr Lewis told the BBC.

"I have reported it time and time again over the last year. I've put them (Facebook) on notice that 'I don't do ads. So any advert with my name and face on it is fake. Stop running them.' And it does nothing," he said.

Solicitor Mark Lewis, the lawyer who represented the Dowler family in the phone-hacking case against the News of the World, is representing Mr Lewis.

Facebook said they have been in direct contact with Mr Lewis' team and "promptly" investigate his requests.

"We do not allow adverts which are misleading or false on Facebook and have explained to Martin Lewis that he should report any adverts that infringe his rights, and they will be removed," Facebook said in an e-mailed statement to The National.

Mr Lewis complained that Facebook puts the onus on him to monitor ads bearing his name and image - although he has informed Facebook that he isn't involved in any advertising at all on the platform.

"I have to report them (the adverts). When we report them it takes a couple of weeks. If we are lucky it may take them down and then the next day the scammers launch another one and the onus is on me again. Enough is enough."

Mr Lewis, writing on his blog on Monday, described the advertising as "disgusting".

Some adverts show Mr Lewis's face next to endorsements that he has not made, or link to articles with false information.

Mr Lewis has previously tweeted that "dirty lying scammers" had taken £19,000 off of a vulnerable man using a fake Facebook advertisement using his name.

If Mr Lewis wins his High Court case, he said he would donate any award to charities who help people who have been fleeced by scam artists.

Mr Lewis is the founder of the consumer help site MoneySavingExpert.com and the Money & Mental Health Policy Institute charity. He is also a television presenter on The Martin Lewis Money Show.

The Advertising Standards Authority has previously upheld Mr Lewis' complaints against false advertising, saying it appeared that the expert had endorsed the services.

In addition to the fake advertising lawsuit, Facebook is in the midst of a data-privacy scandal that has angered users and seen its market value drop by tens of billions of dollars.

The crisis began when a whistleblower accused British university researcher Aleksandr Kogan of harvesting and sharing Facebook user data with Cambridge Analytica, a company that helped Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told US lawmakers that Mr Kogan violated Facebook policy by sharing data with a third party, Mr Kogan hit back on Monday.

"I think they (Facebook) are being a little misleading," Mr Kogan said. "The idea that this was a hack is flat-out wrong."

"Imagine a warehouse. We didn't break in. We went on Amazon and ordered the data, and they delivered it to us. This is a key feature of their system."

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