back to article UK consumer help bloke Martin Lewis is suing Facebook over fake ads

Consumer champion Martin Lewis, Britain’s Money Saving Expert, has declared he is suing Facebook for defamation over fake adverts featuring his face that repeatedly appear on the under-fire social network. In a statement issued last night on the MoneySavingExpert website, of which he is editor-in-chief, Lewis said he was sick …

  1. David Gosnell

    "... he should report any adverts ..."

    Because their track record of doing diddly squat with anything users succeed in fighting through their byzantine "wizard" to actually report is so glowing, right?

    1. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: "... he should report any adverts ..."

      Not to mention he can only report them when he knows about them, and due to FB's algorithms, I doubt they show these scam adverts to Martin himself very often...

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: "... he should report any adverts ..."

        He finds out about them when people send him screenshots and ask him if he really is endorsing the product.

        The vast majority of people who see ads don't do that, but he does get about 5 people per day who do ask.

      2. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: "... he should report any adverts ..."

        And the fact, from another article about the same subject I read, he had been reporting and they'd done fuck all pretty much.

        1. LeahroyNake Silver badge

          Re: "... he should report any adverts ..."

          What if he didn't have a Farcebook account?

    2. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

      Re: "... he should report any adverts ..."

      See, I read the part

      "[We] have explained to Martin Lewis that he should report any adverts that infringe his rights and they will be removed"

      as

      "[We] expect everyone else to do any and all error and fact checking for us for free, while we gleefully take money from the dregs of society. While we accept and publish these adverts, and pocket the associated revenue, it is not the responsibility of FaceBook to actually take responsibility for anything at all, ever."

      Bastards. Absolute utter bastards, the lot of them.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: "... he should report any adverts ..."

        Also, can you report an ad from a screenshot sent by someone else?

        If he goes to the place where the ad was spotted, he would see something different.

        These ads will be targeted at low-income, low intelligence, finances in a complete mess type people, and facebook's ad targetting algorithm might not identify Martin Lewis as such a person.

        Of course, their ad targetting is completely useless. Despite the fact that I use facebook pretty much only for lesbian related stuff, they still think I might be interested in getting a boyfriend, buying clothes for the aforementioned boyfriend (are men not capable of buying their own clothes), pregnancy tests, nursery schools and so on.

        1. Woodnag

          Try Motor Trend magazine in USA

          Motor Trend magazine is probably the highest circulation new car mag, and the ads feature hunks chewing tobacco, more hunks driving trucks bigger than a space shuttle, watches with more complications than aforementioned space vehicle, hideously ugly jewelry with broad-bean sized non-precious stones for the The Wife... and smiling hetero-couple ED treatment ads at the back.

          The guns magazine ads are even more steotyped. Slinky ladies featuring small handguns in a thigh holster (!), chunky men in camo carrying the latest black rifle.

          But apart from the patriarchal sexist crap, the annoyance of ads is being flooded with toaster ads after buying one online. Do people collect toasters... ooh, that's a nice toaster, let's get than one too!

        2. Skwosh

          Re: "... he should report any adverts ..."

          "[We] have explained to Martin Lewis that he should report any adverts that infringe his rights and they will be removed"

          This is on a par with a toddler deliberately swinging a stick around and saying it's your fault you got hit because you didn't get out the way quick enough.

          Effectively they are saying:

          It's your fault this is causing you problems because you didn't report it to us quick enough. It's not like we did anything wrong – we were just minding our own business – our business being taking money to push out adverts while paying as little attention as possible to who pays for them or what they contain.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: "... he should report any adverts ..."

            taking money to push out adverts while paying as little attention as possible to who pays for them or what they contain

            Even if they contain malware or links to malware. The US rules on content publishers make a certain sense but they shouldn't absolve the carrier of responsibility for infecting your machine..

        3. Nick Kew

          @katrinab

          buying clothes for the aforementioned boyfriend (are men not capable of buying their own clothes),

          I might just be able to shed light on that one.

          I buy my own clothes just fine. But some women have a different dress sense to mine, and feel much more strongly about it than I do. I suspect many are channeling behaviour learned from mothers, grannies, and aunts who buy clothes for junior family members.

          I once had such a woman as girlfriend: she'd be prime target for such ads. Indeed, clothes were only a small part of the control she asserted over my life. The word we'd customarily use is "henpecked", but when the Chattering Classes started banging on about "Coercive Control" it described that relationship with uncanny accuracy.

        4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: "... he should report any adverts ..."

          are men not capable of buying their own clothes

          Yup. And no, my wife doesn't buy me clothes[1] and I don't buy her clothes. We both realise that the other is adult[2] enough to manage it themselves.

          We do, obviously, consult with each other when buying clothes - and trust each other to be honest.

          [1] She doesn, however, knit/crotchet me stuff - jumpers and socks and the like. Which is nice and, in general, they are very good.

          [2] I stopped my mother buying me clothes without me being present when I was about 10. The quality of clothing went up as a result.. Or at least, the bought ones did. I couldn't do a lot about the ones that I inherited from my brothers or the ones that various schools insisted I had..

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "... he should report any adverts ..."

      Pointless to report anything to Facebook. You can report the worst things on the planet, and you always get the standard response;

      "We reviewed the page you reported for containing ***** and found it doesn't violate our Community Standards."

      Thanks Facebook.

    4. LDS Silver badge

      Re: "... he should report any adverts ..."

      "Please, play whack-a-mole with us, while we scoop the cash and you waste your time!"

      Bitcoins? Facebook itself is just a large scam operations.

    5. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: "... he should report any adverts ..."

      If you serve ads on your platform, you're responsible for knowing whether they are fake services or not... and he's right in saying that since they are facial recognition experts, it'd be useful to flag ads for review when they show up... but that'd be too much to ask from the biggest data slurper on the planet. May he win and force them to take resp... oh. Nevermind.

  2. Bob Vistakin
    Facepalm

    "You just won't believe why Dragon's Den was cancelled"

    Alongside a picture of one of them with a black eye.

    Or how about a photo of a battered Richard Branson alongside some equally dramatic "rushed to hospital" story.

    The list goes on.

    To Reg readers, these are as credible as an economic forecast from Diane Abbott, but I long suspected they are being run via some offshore loophole too difficult to close, but still making money for ZuckerData, hence the bind eye being turned.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "You just won't believe why Dragon's Den was cancelled"

      I long suspected they are being run via some offshore loophole too difficult to close, but still making money for ZuckerData, hence the bind eye being turned.

      I don't think there's any offshore loophole, these are just plain, straight forward fraud crimes that could (in theory) be successfully prosecuted under UK law. But the police are not set up to cope with most forms of mass-market fraud conducted by phone or internet, and faced with a large amount of effort for a possible prosecution that the Clown Prosecution Service may not take forward, or may lack the skills to successfully conclude, or results in trivial and non-deterrent penalties, it represents a low value policing target. When the public are asking the police to act, "cyber crime" often gets a mention, but always remains some way down the list compared to ASB, drugs, extremism, organised crime, burglary and motor crime.

      In terms of the intermediaries, yes, they know its fraud, and you're correct that as long as they make money they don't care - but this is nothing new - no different to telcos enabling spam telephone marketing, or payments processors acting for spammers and illegal sellers.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: "You just won't believe why Dragon's Den was cancelled"

        The ad servers are probably hosted and run from US. Most are.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: "You just won't believe why Dragon's Den was cancelled"

      but I long suspected they are being run via some offshore loophole too difficult to close

      The problem is (in part) about the various ad brokers and agencies. They get paid for providing adverts to sites and, in general, are not too fussy about the content. After all, it makes them money. And, in general, their sytems are almost all automated with very little, if any, human interaction or control. After all, processor time is cheap and people are expensive. And need things like sleep.

      The ad brokers should also be included in the lawsuit.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We're not a publisher we're a platform so we're not responsible for anything we do la la la"

    It's wearing a little thin.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Indeed. They may not be responsible for what people post as individuals, but when they are selling advertising space, they sure as hell should be responsible for what goes into it.

      They seem to be able to come up with all sorts of new and interesting ways to get those adverts through ad-blockers, so it doesn't really wash that they aren't responsible for them. If a significant portion of those adverts are fraudulent or malicious, there is even a moral case for the use of ad-blockers beyond the argument that an owner of a pair of eyeballs should have some control of what they get to see.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Came here to say the same thing however I think he will lose because if he wins Facebook will be responsible for content and then it's bye bye to Facebook. (not a bad thing in my opinion) Government for all its bluster and bullshit won't want to lose its favourite spy on the people tool.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        I think he will lose because if he wins Facebook will be responsible for content

        I disagree; I think the courts are perfectly capable of drawing a distinction between user-generated content, posted to a user's wall, and advertising, which is not user-generated, and targeted in a wholly different way.

        1. Killfalcon Silver badge

          I agree with Loyal Commentator. I'll go a step further, and say that Lewis's only hope of winning is to draw that line himself.

          It's very comfortably settled law that Facebook, Twitter and so forth down to webforums and BBSes alike all have the same protections: their users are the publishers, and liable for their own content. The platform is not a publisher.

          Adverts are, at lest in theory, pre-approved, and in Facebook's case specifically *delivered*, by the Platform. That's how it works: you make an ad, tell FB you want it sent to people tagged with these keywords, and FB does so. There's a valid argument that FB is publishing adverts even if it's not publishing user content, which is nice because breaking Common Carrier protections would cause utter chaos. Things like this here comments section would be a serious liability to El Reg - any random chump can come here, post terrible things and get the site's owners in legal trouble.

          Personally, I'd love companies to be held responsible for the adverts they accept. If that hurts them, then they can pass the hurt onto the middle-men linking advertisers to platforms, and hopefully force the industry to clean it's act up.

        2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Entirely agree. FB takes money to show adverts to specific targetted groups of people. It therefore has a responsibility to check those adverts. Would it let someone target an advert at 15-year-old girls that offered a lucrative career in glamour-modelling in Eastern Europe? I suspect not, so they have mechanisms in place to check adverts prior to publication. They take the money, they do due diligence. If that costs them money, then just put up the advert prices. Trump can afford it.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Would it let someone target an advert at 15-year-old girls that offered a lucrative career in glamour-modelling in Eastern Europe?

            Of course it bloody would! This is Facebook we're talking about. Their only morals are, "can you pay?" And, "can we plausibly deny all responsibility if we get caught taking the cash?"

            1. Brandon 2

              15 year olds and advertising

              If facebook requires accepting terms of use, which is legally accepting a contract's terms, then how can a 15 year old legally use their site?

              1. John Lilburne

                Re: 15 year olds and advertising

                Under 18s can purchase food, clothes and property, both of which are a form of contract. The under 18 may at some point repudiate some contracts, but not those entered into for basics such as food and clothes. However, having repudiated the contract they cannot then retain the benefits of the contract.

    3. Haku

      Facebook trying to claim they're a conduit like an ISP?

      Funny, in the past 20+ years I can't ever remember any of my ISPs injecting adverts into my browser...

    4. P. Lee Silver badge

      >>"We're not a publisher we're a platform so we're not responsible for anything we do la la la"

      >It's wearing a little thin.

      A recent 9th circuit court judgement held that YouTube's and Google's assertions of neutrality were "pure puffery" so maybe we'll see a little traction where editorial control is effected - which includes friendface.

      http://tushnet.blogspot.com.au/2018/03/youtubes-claims-about-allowing-free.html

      If they can't take down these pics, so much for their "send us your nudie pics" gambit.

      It's just a large corporate doing what large corporates do: externalise all possible costs.

  4. Timmy B Silver badge

    If a dodgy advert appears on ITV, or dodgy junk mail arrives in the post who is to blame? Is it the advertiser or is it ITV / Royal Mail?

    It's the advertisers here that really disserve the vitriol and not FB. There should be clear and obvious methods of chasing down the advertiser. Perhaps making it a condition of placing online ads is that you need a Person / Phone number / Company registration / Physical address all available to anyone who views the ad.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      If a dodgy advert appears on ITV, or dodgy junk mail arrives in the post who is to blame? Is it the advertiser or is it ITV / Royal Mail?

      That's an interesting couple of examples you have chosen. ITV is definitely responsible for the adverts it shows. As a 'common carrier', RM is definitely NOT responsible for the contents of the mail it delivers, unless they are circulars that they are delivering on the behalf of others.

      1. Solarflare

        I feel that if it is a personal post, then the carrier shouldn't be liable for it. So if someone is bullying Little Timmy, then Facebook shouldn't be the one on the hook for that (Sorry Mr. Hunt, I don't agree with your soundbite from the other day). I wouldn't blame Royal Mail for a nasty card I got from somebody.

        However, advertisers are paying for the carrier to target people, so carriers should certainly be liable for what they are choosing to allow to be sent. In the Royal Mail example, if they send me some marketing bumf which is particularly awful and if a massive scam (and have gotten paid to deliver it) I think they should be on the hook for that. The same goes for Facebook. Honestly their excuse seems to be more "we don't vet stuff, we just let them pay to target people".

      2. Graham 32

        >That's an interesting couple of examples...

        I think it depends what's wrong with the ad. If it contains defamatory remarks, offensive words etc, then I would expect ITV to be responsible for the ad's content. They should review the ad before it goes out to check it's not breaking general broadcast rules. But if it's an ad that, for example, is for an ISP claiming to be the cheapest/fastest/whatever when really they're not, I don't see that as ITV's responsibility.

        When the ASA makes a ruling using the familiar "must not be shown again in its current form" phrase the ruling is against the advertiser not the broadcaster.

        The Royal Mail aren't to blame for letters as they can't see the content of the communication. The junk leaflets they shove through the letterbox with the post might be a different matter.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          I think it depends what's wrong with the ad. If it contains defamatory remarks, offensive words etc, then I would expect ITV to be responsible for the ad's content. They should review the ad before it goes out to check it's not breaking general broadcast rules. But if it's an ad that, for example, is for an ISP claiming to be the cheapest/fastest/whatever when really they're not, I don't see that as ITV's responsibility.

          The analogy for this particular case would be ITV running an advert on behalf of ScamCo who are blatantly pretending that they are representing ReputableCo, in order to defraud customers, whilst the accounts manager at ITV who sold the airtime to them knew full well what the contents of the ad were going to be and that they were not who they were pretending to be. I believe the charges that would be levelled would be conspiracy to defraud or similar.

      3. Dr. E. Amweaver

        Er, speaking as an ex-ITV person, hell yes we were responsible for any ad we showed.

        All TV ads have to go through clearance and compliance processes to ensure they're fair, truthful and balanced - in fact, to a standard that puts them well ahead of a lot of TV content.

        And any time we didn't, the ASA shows up and all hell breaks loose...

        "When the ASA feels a complaint is justified, it can take action with the broadcaster concerned. The ASA can require the broadcaster [note: not the advertiser, the broadcaster] to withdraw the advertisement immediately, amend it or suspend it while investigations are carried out."

        ...and if that wasn't enough...

        "For serious or repeated breaches of the Code, Ofcom may impose sanctions, ranging from a formal warning to a request for broadcast correction or a statement of findings, a fine or the shortening, suspending or taking away of a licence to broadcast."

        Even in the cosseted world of ad salesmen where breaches of personal conduct were common and the odd bit of dodginess tolerated, if your screwup causes the ASA to do so much as send a pointed email, it's a career-ending move. As in "never eat lunch in this town again".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          All TV ads have to go through clearance and compliance processes to ensure they're fair, truthful and balanced - in fact, to a standard that puts them well ahead of a lot of TV content.

          I have said in the past that some ads are better than the TV programmes!

    2. John Lilburne

      The Royal Mail accepts items and delivers them given the correct postage. It doesn't examine the contents. FB would like you to believe that it similarly accepts money for an advert and doesn't examine the content. Yet it examines all other content that goes through its site and further targets user based on the advert's content. A question to ask is how many adverts for semtex, or explicit porn are distributed on FB and if they can keep those things off grannies FB page they can keep all sorts of stuff off too.

    3. katrinab Silver badge

      ITV - yes

      Arqiva, who transmit the signal from the ITV studio to your rooftop, no.

      Royal Mail are like Arqiva, or like BT Openreach in relation to a Facebook ad.

  5. Andy 73

    Much needed lawsuit

    If Facebook's revenue is from advertising, and the adverts I am shown are representative (endless Bitcoin and investment scams), then something is very broken and yes, they should be held responsible.

    These adverts are sufficiently formulaic that there is no reason whatsoever for Facebook to be incapable of removing them automatically. Given the heavy handed way they police the 'non commercial' parts of their estate, it is a clear case of selling their morals to anyone with cash.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Much needed lawsuit

      I'm inclined to agree and think that the choice of a defamation suit, over which UK law is notoriously strict, is interesting. Nice way to set the precedent of liability.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope he takes them to the cleaners

    They are repeatedly allowing his name and face to be used for fraud. They should either clean up their act and stop this from happening OR they are complicit on the fraud.

    Facebook are supposed to have all this wonderful facial recognition technology. It is not too much to ask for it to be used to stop his picture from being published?

    It is that hard to scan the text or images for his name and oh something simple like 'Moneysaving Expert' and the like?

    I'll put in my order for Popcorn now. This could get interesting.

    Go on Martin take them to the cleaners.

    1. AndyS

      Re: I hope he takes them to the cleaners

      > They should either clean up their act and stop this from happening OR they are complicit on the fraud.

      I suppose saying they are complicit in the fraud may be pushing it slightly, but they are certainly making money off it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'll put in my order for Popcorn now. This could get interesting.

      There is so much popcorn ordering going on around here, I now very much I'd bought into popcorn futures, just like all those nice online adverts suggested. :-)

    3. Nick Kew

      Re: I hope he takes them to the cleaners

      There's an arguable case over whether they're complicit on the fraud.

      But that's not what Lewis is saying. He's concerned about his own good name, and rightly so - having built up a sizeable business based on a reputation as trusted expert commenter.

      The case he is making - that FB are complicit in the theft of his good name - seems to me a lot more clear-cut than saying they're complicit in the underlying fraud.

      Indeed, whereas libel laws most usually seem to be abused by rich folk over relative trivia, this case seems strong and sensible. If there was ever a case against abolishing (or at least watering down) Blighty's draconian libel laws, this is surely it!

  7. Ol'Peculier

    Frankly, if I saw an advert with his face on it, the last thing I'd do is click on it. I'd much prefer to punch the smug little git.

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      The guy has saved me plenty of money over the years and many many countless others. He's not smug at all and has done more for consumer rights than anyone else I know of in this country. Right now he's doing more than government are sensibly doing to solve the social media issues we are having. As he has said even if he doesn't win he is hoping the prominence of the case will raise enough awareness to put these scam artists out of business.

      I wish him every luck in his case. Facebook can't be allowed to hide behind the just a platform crap when it's the money they make from these scams keeping their business in profit.

      1. Lamont Cranston

        Can't deny he does some excellent work,

        but he's been blessed with an eminently punchable face.

        He's very much in the right with this facebook case, though. Good luck to him.

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Can't deny he does some excellent work,

          "...but he's been blessed with an eminently punchable face."

          Naw, that's Mike Ashley you're thinking about. Minus the excellent work, of course.

    2. Horridbloke

      @Ol'Peculiar

      "I'd much prefer to punch the smug little git."

      But what appears on the screen isn't actually him, it's just a picture. If you punched it you'd just break the screen or, if it's a CRT, hurt your hand.

    3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: seeing his face on an advert

      Perhaps you had a little too much Old Peculiar over the weekend?

      IMHO, Martin Lewis is a pretty good guy especially when compared to many other people we have to deal with on a daily basis. At least he tries to make a difference for us mere mortals.

    4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Martin Lewis isn't smug and punchable. That's totally unfair.

      He's enthusiastic, jolly and a bit of (OK then, a lot of...) an anorak. Which under certain circumstances might make him a bit annoying sometimes. Who wants jolly enthusiasm first thing on a Monday morning?

      But he's passionate in a good cause. He cares about people not getting ripped off, or charged extra for services they could get elsewhere for less. And what's not to like about that? Other than first thing on Mondays...

    5. ToddRundgrensUtopia
    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I appreciate that he has maybe given financial advice on the TV to help someone or other.

      But why does it have to be ITV, the gutter channel?

      And why did his website used to be plastered in his name on every banner? Martin Lewis' Martin Lewis' Money Saving Expert. It reminded me of Drew Curtis' Drew Curtis' Fark.

  8. Crisp

    I hope he wins.

    And I hope he gets a settlement that reflects how much money Facebook are making from fraudulent ads.

  9. MJI Silver badge

    So easy to distinguish

    Random person posting, no fees.

    This is user generated content, this is what FB is _supposed_ to be about.

    Dodgy adverts

    Posted out via advertising system, not a random post, paid, they do know about it otherwise how would they know to send it to everyone.

    Facebook are guilty and they know it. It is NOT UGC but targeted ads.

  10. andy 103 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    No permission is needed

    I was ridiculed on The Reg the other week after trying to explain this very problem - to a person who didn't even have a Facebook account.

    No permission is needed - as things currently stand - to post content such as photos of other people - on to Facebook.

    As a case in point I uploaded a photo of Paris Hilton to my Facebook account, with various captions. Now, unless someone "reports" that, it will remain there forever. Paris and I didn't have a conversation when I uploaded it, no consent was implied or required. And so it will remain there, even with defamatory words on the image etc etc etc. She isn't tagged (we're not "friends" of course) so I doubt she even knows it's there.

    This is one situation where legal intervention would be useful. As it stands, I can post something horrible about you - or anyone else - on FB, and unless it's reported - or even known to be there - it will remain there, for all to see.

    The onus is on the person who's pissed off to report it, and then fight for its removal.

    Oh, and just so everyone doesn't downvote me this time - I'm not suggesting I think the way it works is acceptable. Far from it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No permission is needed

      It wasn't that you were down voted for.

      Just remember where you are!!!

      The average readership on here don't leave their brains at the door when they fire up their computers.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: No permission is needed

      No permission is needed - as things currently stand - to post content such as photos of other people - on to Facebook.

      This depends a lot upon the jurisdiction but in most countries people do have rights to their own image and not just the weak as piss US DMCA safe harbour stuff.

      However this case isn't about user generated shit, but paid for adverts where Facebook engages in a contract with the advertiser. The AGB's will almost certainly stipulate that the advertiser has obtained the necessary rights for the content and Facebook has a duty of care, after all it is being paid.

      No wonder you got ridiculed.

      1. andy 103 Silver badge

        Re: No permission is needed

        The AGB's will almost certainly stipulate that the advertiser has obtained the necessary rights for the content and Facebook has a duty of care, after all it is being paid

        Right, and in this case, that hasn't happened, has it?

        This is the problem I have with people who comment on this site. They don't understand the difference between how things are "supposed" to work, and how things actually work in real life. My point is exactly that - any external rules/laws outside Facebook are not being enforced. If they were, we wouldn't even have this story here!

        I'm aware of the difference between user generated content and FB adverts. Try and upload anything to either and you'll find it pretty damn easy. Whereabouts do the rules get enforced within FB's platform? Oh yeah they don't, so it all has to be fought for externally by people who get annoyed at what appears there. This story being a really good example.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No permission is needed

          Yeah, I wanted to post Gustave Courbet's "Origines du monde" among other paintings and that one was censured ... "No pussy an da Network, pleaz!" ... so they definitely have the means to block user content, I guess paying advertisers can post anything ...

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: No permission is needed

          They don't understand the difference between how things are "supposed" to work, and how things actually work in real life.

          This is a civil suit filing for defamation not a simple take-down notice. If the court accepts the suit and finds that Facebook hasn't done its job properly, then damages will be substantial and a legal precedent will have been set. This is how the law works and UK courts are routinely chosen by plaintiffs because of their strong record.

  11. Craigie

    We do not allow adverts which are misleading or false on Facebook

    ahahahahaha, have Facebook been on Facebook?? 'we don't allow adverts which are misleading' - coulda fooled me!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: We do not allow adverts which are misleading or false on Facebook

      Ah, you beat me to it. I copied that out of the article, ready to post my own ridicule.

      Particularly as in their lying, sack of shit, statement that they don't allow misleading adverts, they then go on to say that anyone can get any such ads removed from their site. i.e. they do allow misleading adverts, and managed to admit it in the next fucking sentence!

      I guess there's only so much falsehood even a Facebook spokesdroid can emit, before their bullshit-bypass system is overwhelmed.

      Or Facebook are like Putin. Where sometimes you suspect that denials in the face of all the evidence aren't supposed to be believed. But more issued as a giant "fuck you!" to the rest of the world.

  12. peterm3
    Go

    I hope he can get Facebook to start making their adverts less anonymous. Then the question is whether he can find / sue the advertiser for using a photo of him and hist "M Lewis" name. He even has it trademarked I would guess. Although if they are a letterbox company in the Caymans might be like whack-a-mole. Follow the money as they say, and Facebook certainly has the money.

    Compared to the old distribution systems like newspapers and post, Facebook probably offers much cheaper means to get to more consumers. So this is a new problem which needs new regulation.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Targeted

      Compared to the old distribution systems like newspapers and post, Facebook probably offers much cheaper means to get to more consumers. So this is a new problem which needs new regulation.

      If it was just cheaper it wouldn't really require new regulation. But it's not only cheaper, but also allows ads to be targeted in ways that other channels can't offer. Royal Mail can put (addressed) ads in people's letterboxes, and if the advertiser decides to to only send them out to addresses with a 'q' in them and the street number being a prime, then that's certainly possible but probably not particularly effective regarding targeting a specific audience. Facebook, OTOH, can and does target based on ethnicity, buying habits, political leaning and several other indicators unavailable to the RM or whoever provides the mail handling for said advertiser. It would be like 'only mail these[0] posters to people who are likely to put them up' without the advertiser itself explicitly providing those addresses, instead just dumping a pallet full of pamphlets at the nearest sorting centre with a note specifying the intended class of recipients.

      [0] Leave, Stay, whatever.

  13. herman Silver badge

    Follow the money

    It is totally clear cut actually.

    Does FB get paid to publish an advert? If yes - then they are responsible.

  14. M.Zaccone

    Zuck's own words.

    In case any of us have forgotten, when asked by Senator Hatch as to how Facebook got its revenue, Mark Zuckerberg replied "we run ads".

    I wonder if he will come to regret those words.

  15. SVV Silver badge

    The argument he could use is :

    Facebook do not just randomly fling random ads at people.

    Facebook decide certain chracteristics about each user from their interactions with the site (plus many of the things they do when on other sites, as we now know, via tracking). The advertiser decides through a classification system what types of user it wishes to target.

    Facebook's algorithm decides which ads a user gets shown, therefore Facebook has made a business decision to advertise that product at that user.Whether a person or program made that decision should be irrelevant - the process was done by Facebook as part of its' business operation. So therefore they actively made a publishing decision to show that advert, they're not a "neutral platform" letting things go through with no involvement, as in the Royal Mail analogy discussed above. In that analogy, Royal Mail would open everybody's letters, look what they were about and stick in a few relevant advertising leaflets before delivering them to the house - hardly a "neutral carrier" if they did that.

    Another idea (not too sure whether this could work) : Facebook are claiming that their business is to be the middleman - they take the money for the ad and then pass the ad on. That's the advertiser - Facebook - user part of the process. So could it not be argued that in cases of false advertising, Facebook should be made to pay the compensation to the user, and then have to go and pursue a claim against the advertiser. Would be lovely, but I suspect the "Facebook is not resposible for any adverts you see" tucked away in the terms and conditions has that covered, but it might still fly as an argument that the terms are invalid, because Facebook are a part of the process due to the targeting mechanism.

  16. IsJustabloke
    Meh

    Ha!

    if only facebook ahd recently introduced a technology that allows them to scan for faces and use it for good rather than simply adding to a cache of information.

    As an aside, I admit that Martin Lewis has done lots of good as a consumer campaigner but on that TV show he does he just comes across as a huge, shouty, patronizing, knob jockey

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ha!

      He does come across as a "bit of a nob" on TV and radio but he is well clued up and his website is a goldmine of USEFUL information and is my first port of call when I have a need.

      So, to conclude, I would rather have a "bit of a nob" than "no nob at all".

  17. Ochib

    At least he will be giving any money left over from legal costs to "Scam Charities" (As per the London Evening Standard)

    *Surely that should be Anti-Scam Charities (Ed)

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Does a cancer charity spread cancer or find ways to prevent / treat it?

  18. Rainman

    Let the swamp draining commence!

  19. Herring`

    Mr Angry

    I heard him on the radio this morning - first time I've heard him - and he did seem a little peeved. Sounds like it's taking up quite a lot of his time (or the time of people he pays) to track these ads down, report them and then see FB do sod-all for two weeks. Meanwhile he has a steady stream of angry people complaining to him because they got ripped off by something he "recommended" .

    Facebook's reply that they "do not allow" fraudulent ads is clearly bollards.

    Yes, this could have a big impact not only on Facebook but all ad-slingers. We've all heard about bad guys managing to deliver malicious content in ads. If the people serving the ads have to take some responsibility then that could be a good thing.

    1. roblightbody

      Re: Mr Angry

      He was good on the radio this morning, and mentioned other companies who had been similarly afflicted by fake adverts - they should join forces.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Mr Angry

      Yes, this could have a big impact not only on Facebook but all ad-slingers

      Good. It's about time the festering sewer that is the internet advertising industry gets cleaned up. And (in other contexts) companies are starting to wake up to the fact that there are an awful lot of people that don't want adverts pushed into their faces all day long. Even the US TV networks (some of them) have realised this and one or two have announced that they are going to 'trial' reduced advert-load in programmes..

      Apparently, lots of people are leaving for places like Netflix where you don't get adverts - because they enjoy not having to wade through acres of dross to actually see the programme. And enjoy not having the programme interrupted every 5 minutes.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've seen dodgy adverts mentioning Martin on sites other than Farcebook (which I don't use). The real target should be ad syndicators.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Apparently he's had more success with other companies. Who unlike Facebook appear to give some fucks about their customers. Insert comment here about Facebook's customers being the advertisers, who they clearly are working hard for (even when they're the Russian government) - and their product/users that they don't give a fuck about.

      So other companies have run the dodgy ads, he's complained and then if they've been re-run after the takedown, they've helped to track them down so they can't advertise in future. Whereas Facebook have refused to cooperate according to Lewis, and insist that he must report every incident. Then take their own sweet time about removing the ads.

  21. kain preacher

    If I was him I'd sue in the US and this is why. Under the DMCA you can force the hosting company to pull face book dot com( I know you are going to say face book host them selves but you can force the issue with ICAAN) Then you can face book with civil RICO(Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) which gives enhanced/extended penalties .Predicate acts for RICO (which there must be two of) are fraud, counterfeiting(one could are those are counterfeit ads)Criminal copyright infringement( what most would call piracy but this is when you make money off copy right infringement )

    Oh and since Corporations are people in the US I'd look to have criminal charges against face book.

  22. Lloyd

    Lewis was unequivocal about the fake ads: "I don't do adverts."

    Does shameless self promotion not count as advertising then?

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Lewis was unequivocal about the fake ads: "I don't do adverts."

      What he means is that he doesn't do paid product endorsements like some celebrities do.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    So....

    ...Facebook can apparently recognise mine face from a billion others without my consent.

    But can't recognise WITH his consent?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So....

      Accountability. Facebook only serve the adds. They do not look at them.

      They wish to pretend they are being paid as a closed envelope postal service. Posting Adds out.

      However, the communication of adverts are public, not private. So have different rules. Following those rules costs more money, money FB want in their own pockets instead.

  24. mark l 2 Silver badge

    When I ran a Facebook advertising campaign a few months ago, the ads had to be 'approved' before they would go live. Now perhaps this was because I had only just started to use their ads program, and it did not state whether this was a manual or automatic bot that did the approval.

    But surely if they have approved an ad to run on their platform they are responsible for its content.

    Just as if you run a social website where you moderate every post before it goes live, you can't then argue that its user generated content and you have no control over what is posted.

  25. Bucky 2

    Not just Facebook

    In the olden days, a TV or radio network would take some responsibility for its ad content.

    On the Internet, site administrators wash their hands of every side-effect of the ad networks they decide to use. That, more than anything else, drives the use of ad blockers for me.

    If site owners can't be bothered to vet the ads they display, I don't see why I should do it for them.

  26. Joe Harrison

    Also don't bother with the ASA

    Not any longer but a few years back I used to get ads with photos of nice-looking girls named Sandra only 3.2 miles away who were looking for a guy just like me. Great! But then when I did an image search I found the ad photo was basically stolen off somebody's unrelated website.

    I don't know why but it never crossed my mind to complain to Facebook but I did complain to the Advertising Standards Authority. Who did absolutely nothing about it. Eventually as I say the ads stopped by themselves (maybe one too many fake Sandras got cross enough to get it stomped on.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Also don't bother with the ASA

      @Joe Harrison; "Eventually as I say the ads stopped by themselves"

      I'm assuming that's because Sandra moved to another town, then. According to the adverts, she lives within 3.2 miles of *me* now.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Also don't bother with the ASA

        But you will have a lot of competition for her.

        I get the ones saying there are 4000 men who are desperate to meet me (in a town with a population of 5000 that is not particularly near to me but I think Sky have some ISP related stuff there).

        This gets advertised constantly on lesbian groups. It sounds like the perfect definition of hell, and definitely does not make me want to sign up with them.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slightly off topic but....

    ...I think something also needs to be done about local rag websites that towns have. Like The Argus etc. View their sites and the amount of bent adverts they have on them is shocking. Especially when you browse them on an Android. You'll regularly get an fake anti virus advert that pops up and draws you away from the site completely. You'll have adverts that automatically open the Play Store trying to convince you to install their app.

    It's shocking.

    I bet the amount of shit those local rag sites collect is as bad as Facebook.

    1. Pete4000uk

      Re: Slightly off topic but....

      Some sites I cannot see the contents for the adverts. My local news site was like that until it hit my adblocker

  28. Mike Richards

    If it helps Martin Lewis

    "I started Facebook. I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

    Mark Zuckerberg, testifying to Congress, April 2018.

  29. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    A precedent of sorts...

    Years ago, before the Web and sites such as eBay, Gumtree and Craig's List, the preferred way to shift tat was to place a small ad in a local newspaper. Needless to say, these became a vector for fraud - particularly as the mass adoption of credit cards allowed fraudsters to receive money more or less anonymously (certainly compared to giving out a postal address and receiving cheques through the post).

    Eventually the large numbers of fraudulent ads could no longer be ignored and the Government changed the law to make the newspaper publisher responsible. In other words, if you were defrauded you could sue the paper rather than the long-gone fraudster.

    This had a miraculous, almost overnight effect as papers greatly tightened-up their due-dilligence before accepting an ad. It is only a matter of time before something similar will happen to Facebook et al.

  30. Adam 52 Silver badge

    Defamation Act 2013:

    This section applies where an action for defamation is brought against the operator of a website in respect of a statement posted on the website.

    (2)It is a defence for the operator to show that it was not the operator who posted the statement on the website.

    (3)The defence is defeated if the claimant shows that—

    (a)it was not possible for the claimant to identify the person who posted the statement,

    (b)the claimant gave the operator a notice of complaint in relation to the statement, and

    (c)the operator failed to respond to the notice of complaint in accordance with any provision contained in regulations.

    Facebook will be arguing that (2) and (3c) apply. I suspect that Facebook are following the letter of the regulations, suitably spun, if not the spirit.

    But (2) feels like dodgy ground for an advertisement, it's not some random poster it's Facebook themselves posting the advert.

  31. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Well, I heard this chap (whom I didn't know from Adam*) this morning on BBC World Service and after I had heard what he had to say I couldn't see what was so difficult in what he was asking Facebook to do: establish a (possibly paid-for) registry of people who do not wish to appear in advertisements. He cited Richard Branson as a possible co-participant in such a scheme too.

    Consider: we already have fit-for-primetime facial recognition programs. What is being asked for is no more difficulty than submitting an image of oneself (possibly as part of the hated FB profile) and asking Facebook to scan any images used in advertising for a match so they can be rejected before anyone gets offended.

    Now I can appreciate that FB wouldn't want the extra work involved, but if it were done in a sensible roll-out on new ads, only grandfathering old ads as they were "hit", automation would deal with it. No shaved ape involvement at all.

    I imagine a case could be made for using the service to increase participation too (only participants can use the paid service). Perhaps someone should explain to El Zucko the cashmoney to be had for something he can have added in software for almost no outlay.

    * Unless we are talking Adam Sandler.

  32. waterfallcutoff

    facebook ruined the slogan "let your fingers do the walking"

    I have to agree 100%, that facebook is falsely promoting , advertising, and exemplifies how this harvard college graduate mark zuckerberg leaped before he could walk. suddenly a recent graduate and his assets grow expotentially, there is something wrong with this picture.

  33. jchevali

    Stop ganging up on Facebook. What are they? The pick of the month? Martin Lewis isn't a saint. Both Lewis and Zukerberg are business men. They created a brand, now they're defending it. They both argue they're good for you, the consumer. They both give you something, take something. In fact, there is no moral high ground they can take, there is no right or wrong, it's all words. They're both in business -- let's them beat each other up, through the courts or otherwise. We don't need to take Martin Lewis's side at all.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope he wins

    This is about as clear a case as we could hope for - if they are able to recommend tags for people based on their facial recognition, they sure as hell have the ability to recognize him in ads. Maybe not 100% of the time and with no false positives, but if they were 98% they'd reduce a lot of the harm to his reputation (and to those who get scammed) and the small false positive rate can be handled on appeal from the advertiser (or they can replace the face in their ad with someone else who looks less like him)

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