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Billionaire John de Mol Corners Facebook on Bitcoin Scam


Dec. 9 2019, Updated 3:58 p.m. ET

Facebook (FB) must remove ads offending Dutch billionaire and Big Brother reality show founder John de Mol or face a heavy monetary fine, a Dutch court ruled this week on November 11. The problem stems from bitcoin investment ads on Facebook.

Scammers have used Facebook to circulate ads promoting fake bitcoin investment opportunities. To trick unsuspecting investors, the ads include de Mol’s image to make it look like he supports the schemes. But de Mol doesn’t like the association with the bitcoin scams. As a result, he asked Facebook to remove the offending ads. If the social media behemoth didn’t act to his satisfaction, de Mol will sue the company, resulting in this week’s court ruling.

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Billionaire de Mol puts Facebook in a dilemma

The Dutch court ruled the tech giant would face up to $1.2 billion in fines in the de Mol matter. But there is a problem. Facebook currently lacks the technology to prevent fraudulent ads like the ones de Mol doesn’t like on its platform. “De Mol seeks a perfecting filter that doesn’t exist,” Bloomberg quoted Facebook’s attorney Jens van den Brink.

To further demonstrate how pleasing de Mol would be hard, the company says scam ads aren’t its problem alone. The company cites Google (GOOGL), eBay, and LinkedIn as other companies struggling to remove scam ads. For example, Google faces a lawsuit that accuses it of allowing ads that promote counterfeit goods to circulate on its platforms.

Facebook risks losing money, tries to ban bitcoin ads

The de Mol could subtract from Facebook’s hard-earned cash at a time when the company has a growing need for it. As we discussed before, Facebook is undertaking several capital-intensive projects. Moreover, Facebook is the subject of lawsuits and investigations that could result in fines. These are eating its cash reserve. Therefore, the de Mol fines risks adding pressure to Facebook’s bank account, which could disrupt its project funding.

In 2018, Facebook banned cryptocurrency product ads, such as bitcoin, in a bid to protect its users from scams. However, it later allowed crypto ads back after it apparently figured out how to vet them. But it seems scammers continue to game Facebook crypto ads filters. This puts the company in trouble, such as the de Mol dilemma.


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