Monday, October 3, 2022
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Malaysia should penalise Facebook for allowing scam ads

The Ministry of Health has issued a statement refuting claims that it endorsed a diabetes recovery product that’s advertised on Facebook. The ad came from a Facebook page with 378 likes and it showed a photo of Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin with the text “Khairy’s Advice for Diabetics – Blood sugar returns to normal”.

The Ministry of Health warns all manufacturers and product owners to be responsible and not to cause confusion among the public. Despite the report from the Ministry of Health, the ad is still active and it has been running since 2nd May 2022. At the time of writing, it seems that Facebook has not taken any steps to stop the ad and as a result, Malaysian consumers are still at risk of being misled by false advertising on their platform.

Despite having an elaborate advertising policy that requires all ads to be reviewed, Facebook continues to approve fake and scam ads targetting innocent Malaysians. Although Facebook has provided options for users to report fake and misleading ads, it takes almost forever for them to respond.

Deputy Home Affairs Minister Datuk Jonathan Yasin recently revealed that Malaysians lost over RM1.61 billion to online fraud from 2019 to 2021. Out of 51,631 fraud cases, online purchases top the list with 18,857 cases. With the rise of visible fake ads on the Facebook platform, it is clear that the authorities should hold the tech giants like Facebook liable for approving the ads in the first place.

In March 2022, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) sued Meta for allowing scam ads on its platform. It alleged that Meta has engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct by publishing scam advertisements featuring prominent Australian public figures. The ACCC said their conduct was in breach of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) or the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act (ASIC Act). It added that Meta aided and abetted or was knowingly concerned in false or misleading conduct and representations by the advertisers.

According to their official statement, the ads had promoted investment in cryptocurrency or money-making schemes and were likely to mislead Facebook users into believing that the ads were associated with well-known people. The schemes were in fact scams and the people featured in the ads had never approved or endorsed them.

ACCC Chair Rod Sims said Meta is responsible for ads that it publishes on its platform and should have been doing more to detect and then remove false or misleading ads on Facebook, to prevent consumers from falling victim to ruthless scammers.

He added “Apart from resulting in untold losses to consumers, these ads also damage the reputation of the public figures falsely associated with the ads. Meta failed to take sufficient steps to stop fake ads featuring public figures, even after those public figures reported to Meta that their name and image were being featured in celebrity endorsement cryptocurrency scam ads.”


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