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Facebook can now be required to use filter technologies to get rid of fake ads linked to crypto-currency scams carrying images of media personalities – at least in the Netherlands. The 12 November judgement is immediately enforceable, and the court has ordered Facebook to remove all offending ads within five days, and to provide data on the accounts running them within a week.

Facebook breakout
© Lewis Tse Pui Lung / Shutterstock.com

Not The First Time

At the time of the court summons, victims of the crypto-scams had reported a total of €1.7 million in damages to the Dutch government, according to the judgement. This case isn't very different from a case in the UK last year, which was instigated by UK consumer advice personality, Martin Lewis. According to TechCrunch, he announced defamation proceedings against Facebook, as well as for misuse of his image in fake ads for crypto-scams. Lewis's case was withdrawn at the beginning of 2019 when Facebook agreed to apply new measures to tackle the problem utilizing a scam ads report button. The social media company also agreed to provide funding to a UK consumer advice organization to set up a service for scam advice. With the de Mol case, the lawsuit ran its natural course, which resulted in this preliminary judgement against Facebook.

Facebook Says

Facebook's main argument in court was that it couldn't do more against removing the Bitcoin scam ads containing celebrity images on the grounds that doing so would breach EU law against general monitoring conditions in place on Internet platforms. The Dutch court rejected Facebook's claim, citing the EU's top court ruling that platforms are obligated to remove hate speech, etc., also concluding that the requested measures could not be classified as general obligations of supervision. Arguments by Facebook's lawyers were also rejected that said restricting the fake scam ads would be restricting the freedom of expression of a natural person, or their right to be freely informed. The court also pointed out that "expressions" involving commercial gain and fraudulent practices didn't fit into ones "freedom of expression".

The court also found that ordering Facebook to take extra measures to more effectively remove offending scam ads is not unreasonable in this context.

Effects Of The Case

Throughout the court case, there has also been a striking reduction in fake scam ads using de Mol's image, which shows the effect of the judgement in action. The case does, however, raise questions regarding the burden of proof for demonstrating that Facebook is removing scam ads sufficiently and with greater accuracy and what other additional measure it can use to improve the take-down rate.