British finance expert sues Facebook over scam ads featuring his name and face

MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis launched a lawsuit against Facebook, claiming the company is allowing the publication of scam ads featuring his name.

MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis says the social media giant is responsible for its ad content

Martin Lewis of the website moneysavingexpert.com, is suing Facebook for defamation after his name and face appeared on several fake ads for scams and get-rich-quick schemes. (Cate Gillon/Getty Images)
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A personal finance expert is suing Facebook for defamation after his name and face appeared in several ads for shady get-rich-quick schemes. 

Martin Lewis, a British TV personality and founder of the consumer advice website MoneySavingExpert, alleges his name has appeared on more than 50 ads over the last year without his consent.

"Basically scams, cons, frauds on people asking them to give all their hard-earned savings to these people who then disappear or spend the money very quickly," Mark Lewis, the finance expert's lawyer, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

Savings drained 

Martin Lewis is "probably the most trusted financial expert" in the U.K., his lawyer said. 

"People, when they see that he's endorsed a product or they think he's endorsed a product, they therefore back that product," he said.

"Some of them have lost significant six-figure sums of money."

Facebook did not respond to As It Happens' request for comment.

In a statement to the Guardian, Facebook said it does not allow "misleading or false" advertisements on its platform and that it has "explained to Martin Lewis that he should report any adverts that infringe his rights and they will be removed."

"We are in direct contact with his team, offering to help and promptly investigating their requests, and only last week confirmed that several adverts and accounts that violated our advertising policies had been taken down," the statement reads.

Ads keep popping up

But attorney Mark Lewis says the onus should not be on his client to keep track of the scams. 

"The minute one advert is closed, after it's already done its harm, it gets replaced with another one," he said.

Rather, he said the social media company should shut down all financial ads from non-accredited organizations.

"It's very easy," he said. "Newspapers don't carry adverts for scams. Newspapers have adverting departments."

Facebook says it does not allow 'misleading' advertisement on its platform. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

That argument cuts to the heart of a major debate surrounding the social media giant and what responsibility it has for the content published on its platform.

Amid widespread scrutiny over fake news, troll farms and data privacy, the company has repeatedly said it is not a publisher.

Is Facebook a publisher?

But Mark Lewis doesn't buy it.

"A significant part, and probably the most profitable part, is where they take sponsored advertisements," he said.

"There's no way of describing what they're doing without using the word publication."

Martin Lewis has vowed to donate any money he is awarded to charities that help victims of fraud. 

That's because the lawsuit is more about taking on Facebook than making money, his lawyer said. 

"What he wants to do is hit them in the pocket."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Mark Lewis produced by Kevin Robertson.

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