By Toby Sterling
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A Dutch court has ordered Facebook <FB.O> to remove advertisements that misuse the likeness of a local celebrity to promote fraudulent Bitcoin-related investments.
Dutch billionaire tycoon John de Mol sued Facebook, saying it had failed to respond to repeated requests to pull advertisements that misused his and other local celebrities’ likenesses and led to investors losing $1.7 million euros.
His suit also demanded that the company take measures to prevent the issue recurring, and that it hand over information to him on the scammers behind the advertisements.
The court ordered Facebook to pull the offending ads or be fined up to 1.1 million euros ($1.2 million).
“Facebook’s arguments that it is just a neutral funnel for information, and therefore cannot be obligated to act, is not acceptable,” the court said in a summary judgment.
“The company plays too active a role with respect to advertisements, which form its primary business model, to argue that.”
The court noted that Facebook has a pricing policy for ads and also has policies that determine which advertisements are or aren’t published on its properties.
Facebook, which argued in court that it had already removed the offending ads, said it had just received the ruling and was considering “all legal actions including an appeal.” [nL5N26051G]
“Importantly, this ruling does not change our commitment to fighting these types of ads,” the company said in a statement. “We cannot stress enough that these types of ads have absolutely no place on Facebook, and we remove them when we find them.”
De Mol said he hoped that “this verdict prompts Facebook to take measures as soon as possible, so that innocent people can’t be defrauded by those fake Bitcoin advertisements anymore”.
He noted that the ruling also instructed Facebook to hand over information it may have about the identity of the people behind the false ads.
De Mol is a media mogul best known for creating or popularising reality TV formulas including “Big Brother”, “Deal or No Deal” and “The Voice”.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Mark Potter and Kevin Liffey)