Fortescue Metals boss Andrew Forrest has launched criminal proceedings against Facebook claiming the social media giant failed to stop clickbait advertising scams using his image.
The action alleges the tech giant breached federal anti-money laundering laws and is being taken in the Magistrates Court of Western Australia, Dr Forrest’s home state.
It was the first time Facebook, rebranded as Meta last year, had faced criminal charges globally, Dr Forrest said.
The scam ads used the mining magnate’s image and other well-known Australians to promote cryptocurrency schemes, he claimed, and had appeared on the platform since 2019.
Dr Forrest has made repeated requests to Facebook to halt the use of his image, including an open letter to founder Mark Zuckerberg in November 2019.
The Australian billionaire said he was concerned about innocent Australians being scammed by criminal syndicates through clickbait advertising on social media.
“This action is being taken on behalf of everyday Australians – mums and dads, grans and grandads,” he said in a video statement on Thursday.
“Innocent Australians who have worked all their lives to gather their savings so they might retire as we all hope to in comfort, and not to have those hard-earned savings swindled away by people who just simply could not care less.”
The criminal charges have been brought under the Commonwealth Criminal Code with the consent of the Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, he said.
They allege Facebook was “criminally reckless” by taking insufficient steps to stop criminals from using the platform to defraud innocent users and failed to create controls or a corporate culture to prevent its system being used to commit crimes.
Dr Forrest, who was worth an estimated $27.25 billion in mid-2021, said he wanted social media companies to use their vast resources to protect vulnerable people being targeted by the scams.
“Social media is part of our lives like newspapers, like publications, like roads, like hospitals,” he said.
“But we all are responsible. Everything I just named has deep legal responsibilities, except many players in social media. The time has come to call that to account.”
An initial hearing in the WA Magistrates Court is set for March 28. A civil case has also been filed against Facebook in California.
Facebook Australia has been contacted for comment.