Consumer champion Martin Lewis has dropped his defamation claim against Facebook after the company agreed to donate £3m to set up an anti-scam project with Citizens Advice.
In April, the Manchester-born journalist and broadcaster announced he was pursuing Facebook over its repeated failure to prevent scam adverts from using his name and image.
Lewis estimated that “thousands, possibly tens of thousands” of people had fallen prey to scams promoted using his reputation. Now the US giant has decided to launch a UK-specific one-click reporting tool.
“My aim was to try and reduce and stop the hideous number of scam adverts that had been going on in UK online advertising that have really hurt real people,” he said.
“The first time my attention was drawn to this was a man who accused me of scamming him out of £19,000. I don’t do adverts, full stop. Any advert with me in it is a lie, it’s a scam. That’s where the anger came from.”
Facebook’s donation to Citizens Advice will total £2.5m in cash and £500,000 of vouchers for the company’s online ad service, which will be used to fund an independent scam prevention project, Citizens Advice Scams Action (Casa). This will include a scam ad button on Facebook and a scam ad reporting team.
When Casa launches in May, it will work to identify and tackle online scams, as well as to support victims.
“We don’t allow these ads on our platform,” said Steve Hatch, Facebook’s regional director for northern Europe. “We have a zero-tolerance approach to people using these ads on our platform, but we know that zero tolerance doesn’t mean zero occurrence.”
Lewis said Facebook was making great strides in tackling scam adverts but other online publishers were not. “Over the last few weeks I have again been plagued by scam adverts,” he added.
“A few of them have been on Facebook and when we’ve told them they’ve taken them down quickly. That’s not the case with Google. There have been ads, and the problem with Google is that the adverts on Google aren’t just on Google, they’re on websites, and they’re on apps. And it’s not just Google, it’s the Yahoo platform.
“Google and the rest of you – online advertising has to stand up and take some responsibility.”