Facebook has disclosed that it will be investing £3 million into targeting fraudulent advertisements on its UK platform, after reaching a settlement with Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert founder.
Last year, Lewis initially launched proceedings against Facebook over a series of ads that appeared on the website which claimed he had supported several investment schemes. The schemes later turned out to be fake, and Lewis sued the social media giant for reputational damage.
He said that he had dropped the lawsuit after working with Facebook to look for new ways of fighting scammers on the platform.
Facebook said that it will be donating £3 million to Citizens Advice as part of the settlement, which has pledged to increase public awareness and provide support to scam victims. The funds will be used to establish the Citizens Advice Scam Actions (Casa) project which is scheduled to be launched this coming May.
Facebook plans to launch a scam ads reporting tool on its UK website around the same period. It will enable users to flag ads that they consider to be fraudulent or in violation of the ad policies of Facebook. An internal team will be formed to monitor and enforce the reports.
This morning, Steve Hatch, the northern Europe director of Facebook, told reporters: “We know zero tolerance doesn’t mean zero occurrences.”
He added: “This is an area we’ve been focused on for a long time… We’ve invested heavily in [our reporting] systems, they’re improving but they’re not perfect.”
Lewis put out an appeal to other advertising platforms, such as Yahoo and Google, and regulators and policymakers to work with him and Citizens Advice regarding the matter.
He added that the £3 million donation was “far and above anything I could have won in court.” He predicted that his final damages would have been closer to between £50,000 and £100,000. However, he said that he would not rule out another lawsuit in the future “if things do not improve.”
A spokesperson for Google later stated: “Because we want the ads people see on Google to be useful and relevant, we take immediate action to prevent fake and inappropriate ads. We have a tool where anyone can report these ads and these complaints are reviewed manually by our team.”
The company added that Google had removed 3.2 billion ads in 2017 and that the tech giant updates its policy as new threats develop.
Facebook said that it disabled 754 million fake accounts in the third quarter of last year, an increase from the 583 million in the previous quarter. Of the £3 million donated to Citizens Advice, £2.5 million will be paid out in cash over the next two years and £500,000 will be awarded in advertising credit to spread awareness over the campaign.