He described the practice as “abhorrent” and said Facebook’s senior leadership had been informed of the issue that saw them profiting from the advertising revenue.
“You have the power and the technology to prevent these scam advertisements from running on your platform,” he said. “Is revenue more important to you than the life savings of elderly people, Mr Zuckerberg?”
Similar criticisms have been raised against the social media platform by Nine Entertainment Co, owner of this masthead, over scam ads impersonating television identities including Deborah Knight and Eddie McGuire.
Mr McGuire sent legal letters to Facebook after he was told about spoof ads claiming he used treatment for erectile dysfunction.
The issue has become part of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s world-first inquiry into Facebook and Google and their impact on traditional publishers, consumer rights and advertising revenues.
The competition watchdog’s final report warned of an increase in scam behaviour and the “use of digital platforms to facilitate such conduct” and suggested the government consider creating a new ombudsman to help resolve complaints about fraudulent advertisements and other problems.
Mr Forrest has taken this a step further and suggested governments across the world work together to tackle the issue.
“As your socially reprehensible recalcitrance has continued, a concerted international effort is required to secure independent oversight and accountability for Facebook’s operations,” he said in the letter.
“I am therefore calling on governments around the world to update their regulatory and legislative frameworks to ensure society is protected from the harm Facebook facilitates by allowing scammers to advertise on its platform … It’s time for a scam free social media.”
Facebook’s advertising guidelines state that any marketing “must not contain deceptive, false, or misleading content, including deceptive claims, offers, or business practices” and the site has been trialling complaint tools to better report ads that may be trying to scam users.
Jennifer Duke is a media and telecommunications journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.