Facebook Inc suffered a blow as a Dutch judge imposed a penalty payment for each time it fails to block cryptocurrency ads improperly using the image of the originator of the Big Brother television franchise.
The company must pay 10,000 euros ($11,000) each time the posts using the image of John de Mol appear, up to a maximum of 1 million euros, an Amsterdam court ruled Monday. Facebook said it is considering its options, including an appeal.
Facebook doesn’t have the technology to completely prevent fraudulent ads on its platforms, its attorney, Jens van den Brink, said at a hearing two weeks ago. Because webpages are constantly changing, the social media site argued, it’s hard to target individual advertisements. Similar scam ads have been on Linkedin Corp., eBay Inc. and Alphabet Inc’s Google, showing how difficult a ban would be, he added.
“De Mol seeks a perfecting filter that doesn’t exist,” van den Brink said.
While it might be hard to stop the ads, the court concluded that it is Facebook’s responsibility to take measures “even if that is not technically easy.” A filter could also lead to overblocking of real posts, the court said, but “the risk of any unwanted overblocking of legitimate advertisements does not outweigh the seriousness of the problem.”
Facebook said that the ads have no place on the social network “and we remove them when we find them.”
“We take this very seriously and will therefore make our scam ads reporting form available in the Netherlands in early December,” the Menlo Park, California-based company said in a statement. “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.”
De Mol’s demand added to a chorus of complaints over fake news and ads on Facebook’s platforms since revelations that Russian trolls had used them to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In the U.K., journalist and TV anchor Martin Lewis settled a case with Facebook after ads falsely claimed he backed several investment schemes. Facebook since then introduced a scam ads reporting button.
Europe’s highest court ruled in October individual countries can order Facebook to take down posts anywhere in the world if content was determined to be defamatory or otherwise illegal. In Germany, the law requires Facebook to remove content that contains hate speech or incite violence within 24 hours or face up to 50 million euros in fines.
Facebook’s lawyer said it made efforts to address De Mol’s complaints and removed the ads before the first hearing in June and no further proof of their appearance on the site was given. De Mol’s lawyer Jacqueline Schaap said Facebook’s platforms were continuing to feature fake ads displaying the Dutch billionaire stimulating people to invest in the cryptocurrency, resulting in new victims.
De Mol is co-founder of Dutch media company Endemol, which was sold to Telefonica SA in 2000 for 5.5 billion euros. It was behind the reality series ‘Big Brother,’ first aired in The Netherlands in 1999 with more than 50 countries following, including the U.K., Germany and the U.S.