- Financial journalist Martin Lewis implicated in a spate of fraudulent crypto ads on Facebook.
- The ad offers £3,400 for an investment of £190.
- The approval of such ads calls into question Meta's ad review process.
A cryptocurrency scam took place in Meta’s backyard despite prior pledges to uproot fake advertising on its platform. Misleading ads using the name of Martin Lewis, a well-known money-saving expert in the U.K., offer Britons a return of £3,400 for investments as small as £190. Links on Facebook’s platform take users to a fake BBC website with an article describing Bitcoin Code, a trading bot claimed to generate extraordinary returns for investors amidst rising inflation and living costs.
“Special Report: Martin Lewis’s Latest Investment Has Experts in Awe And Big Banks Terrified,” reads the headline. Lewis previously worked at the BBC as a commercial producer, following a degree in journalism obtained through Cardiff University. The ads have since been taken down.
Big tech agreed to amend policies last year
Lewis was part of the treasury committee in the U.K. last year, whose ambit of authority includes oversight of expenditure, administration, and policy of (Her Majesty’s) HM Treasury, which consists of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and others. In December 2021, tech giants Twitter, Facebook, and Microsoft agreed to only host advertisements by companies that have received permission from the FCA, the U.K.’s financial watchdog, while Google and TikTok touted policies already in place to combat scams. At the time, Lewis applauded the decision to police big tech advertising.
“I’m delighted the joint committee has come to the right decision and backed our call and the call of all the key charities, consumer groups, industry bodies, police, and regulators, to do the bloomin’ obvious and include scam adverts in the Online Safety Bill,” he said. “By making big tech responsible for user-generated scams but not the scam adverts they get paid to publish, it creates an incentive for criminal scammers to switch resources to advertising as there will be less scrutiny.”
Ad review process too lenient
Lewis had locked horns with Facebook in 2018 for failing to protect consumers from handing over thousands of pounds to fraudsters using its platform to advertise over 1,000 scams. “It shouldn’t have taken the threat of legal action to get here. Yet once we started talking, Facebook quickly realized the scale of the problem, its impact on real people, and agreed to commit to making a difference both on its own platform and across the wider sector,” said Lewis.
Meta now has an ad policy that should have prevented ads with “deceptive, false or misleading claims” from going live on Facebook. The company claims that they removed ads featuring Lewis before they were flagged as fake, but questions still remain as to how the ads bypassed new policies, which have been criticized as being too lenient.
It is not clear whether Lewis will take the matter to court.