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Facebook is dreaming of a future virtual reality world where billions of people congregate in harmony, with its owner Mark Zuckerberg sinking billions into making his Metaverse project happen. But as his attention is focused on trying to make this future dream a reality, he seems to have taken his eye off the ball.
Just a few weeks ago it emerged that Meta, Facebook‘s parent company, is being sued for publishing scam celebrity ads by the Australian competition watchdog.
Facebook unwittingly had been hosting dodgy ads fronted – without their knowledge – by down-under TV stars like David Koch, which encouraged people to ‘invest’ in cryptocurrency and other money-making schemes which were actually scams, leading to many losing money. A lot of money: one victim alone is said to have lost £365,000.
And this is not by any means the first time that Facebook has been linked to this kind of thing.
Just last August there was a comparable story in Europe when it emerged that a scam that cons victims into making repeated fake investments in the hope of reaching a “cash-out” threshold -which of course they never can – was detected on Facebook pages across the continent.
This one also used fake endorsements from celebrities – this time including Elon Musk.
Then there’s the ongoing problems on Facebook’s Marketplace platform.
One recent investigation described that wing of Meta as “a Wild West for fraud”. In the UK in the last year alone, the charity Action Fraud received 44,674 reports which mentioned ‘Facebook’ or ‘Facebook Marketplace’. And TSB bank says that three in five reports it receives relating to social media purchase scams stem from Facebook Marketplace – with an average loss of £380.
In its defence, Meta says when such problems are highlighted, that scammers are a challenge across the board online, not just on their platforms. Which is certainly true.
It’s still concerning however that – when unbeknownst to them – content of this kind can penetrate a mega platform like Facebook. It’s also damaging to their brand, and it can be relatively easy to avoid by introducing affordable security protocols.
We work with so many major companies, ensuring their platforms are safe havens from fraud – using our insight into telecom data to weed out any rogue accounts so their users are safe.
Our clients can detect any rogue agent at the point of onboarding. The telephone number fraudsters use to register will be instantly red flagged if it doesn’t have a credible user history, if it’s not being used where it purports to be, and so on.
We can spot warning signs in a microsecond.
It would be relatively simple for Facebook to introduce these robust procedures and keep the fraudsters out – and it would cost a fraction of the amount being spent on developing the Metaverse project. But Facebook’s historic policy of ‘open borders’ – that is letting people onto its platform with minimal scrutiny – instead makes them easier prey for crooks. The resulting negative stories are affecting the reputation of the wider online retail sector and eroding trust across the board.
Meta has something of a monopoly on people’s shared experiences – hundreds of millions of people globally, for example, have their Facebook ‘memories’ as a daily personal data repository that they are emotionally invested in. So, it has a place in people’s affections that means it’s not going anywhere any time soon.
But, if Meta won’t address these flaws then it’s going to continue to be dogged by negativity – and it’s going to be hard to persuade anyone that its rosy future is one to buy into.
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