Dutch billionaire and media tycoon John de Mol has taken on Facebook and won, after an Amsterdam court ruled that the social media giant must take down Bitcoin scam ads featuring his likeness or pay the price.
On Monday, the court ruled that Facebook must remove the ads within five days or face a fine of 10,000 euros [US$11,000] each time one is displayed.
It also ruled that Facebook must turn over to de Mol any information it has regarding the identity of the people placing the ads.
The creator of Big Brother and The Voice filed the lawsuit against Facebook in June after learning that his and other celebrities’ likenesses were being used to promote Bitcoin Revolution and other similar investment schemes on the social media platform.
According to local media, Dutch national anti-fraud helpline FraudeHelpdesk.nl has received 170 separate complaints about the Bitcoin scam to date.
In total, the helpline estimates that Dutch investors lost more than 1.7 million euros [US$1.87 million] to the scam.
Facebook: Impossible to prevent fraudulent ads
At a recent hearing in the case, Jens van den Brink, the attorney representing Facebook, argued that the company “doesn’t have the technology to completely prevent fraudulent ads on its platforms.”
Facebook explained to the court that due to the ever-changing nature of websites, it is “hard to target individual advertisements.”
The company also pointed out that similar ads have appeared on LinkedIn, eBay, and Google.
The court was not swayed, however, and insisted that it was Facebook’s responsibility to look for and remove such ads, even if it is “not technically easy” to do so.
Fixing the problem after the fact ‘not enough’
Facebook has agreed that the Bitcoin scam ads have no place on its platform and said that it removes the ads as soon as it becomes aware of them.
In a statement illustrating its commitment to cleaning up the ads on its platform, Facebook said: “We take this very seriously and will, therefore, make our scam ads reporting form available in the Netherlands in early December.”
“It is in our interest to protect our users from fraudsters and when we find violators we will take action to stop their activity, up to and including taking legal action against them in court,” the company added.
Of course, these measures don’t prevent the Bitcoin scam ads from appearing in the first place, something de Mol wants Facebook to do.
de Mol’s attorney, Jacqueline Schaap, had previously stated that “Facebook should take pre-emptive action to block such ads, and its current vetting system, which relies in part on users self-reporting problems, was not enough.”
Speaking about the ruling, de Mol said that he hopes the verdict will prompt Facebook “to take measures as soon as possible so that innocent people can’t be defrauded by those fake Bitcoin advertisements anymore.”
For its part, Facebook said that it is considering “all legal actions including an appeal.”