Facebook faces online fraud lawsuits

Facebook faces online fraud lawsuits

Mr Chaiwut said 70% of total fraud cheating people to invest in the country was carried out via Facebook’s sponsored pages. (Photo: Digital Economy and Society Ministry)
Mr Chaiwut said 70% of total fraud cheating people to invest in the country was carried out via Facebook’s sponsored pages. (Photo: Digital Economy and Society Ministry)

The Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry will request a criminal court order this month to shut down Facebook in Thailand, alleging that the platform has been an accomplice with scammers in deceiving people to invest with them.

The ministry will refer to the computer crime law in lodging the charge against the scammers and Facebook. It blames Facebook’s failure to help screen fraud via the scammers’ sponsored pages, although the ministry and related agencies have asked Facebook for cooperation for years.

Facebook sponsored pages are paid adverts by customers and are shown to a targeted audience.

The Royal Thai Police will also file similar lawsuits to both the criminal and civil courts against the scammers and Facebook on the grounds that the platform allegedly accomplices and facilitates the fraud, DES Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn said on Monday after a meeting with related agencies, including the Electronic Transactions Development Agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Royal Thai Police.

The minister added that of the total online scams around investment in Thailand, around 70% take place on Facebook, Mr Chaiwut said.

“It has been a most critical issue that many big corporates and famous people had their names and images impersonated to create fake content to lure people for investment,” Mr Chaiwut said.

Facebook has 65 million users in Thailand. Earlier, Prae Dumrongmongcolgul, country director for Meta in Thailand, said Meta acknowledged the rise of scams, and the company used artificial intelligence to detect them and take them down immediately when discovered.

However, those scammers have continued to rapidly evolve and Facebook algorithms sometimes needed time to catch up with them, she added.

Mr Chaiwut said the ministry invited a representative of Facebook to participate in the discussion on Monday, but the company did not assign a representative to join the event.

He said the ministry has talked to Facebook representatives for years about the fraud which has increasingly harmed people, especially content deceiving people to invest.

Facebook has cooperated with the ministry to block such pages. However, the move has not been enough to curb fraud as page owners can continue to open more pages.

“We asked Facebook to help screen users or accounts which pay Facebook for their sponsored pages to post content cheating people to invest in their investment units,” Mr Chaiwut.

He said there were around 300,000 complaints about fraud in both the criminal and civil courts filed by individuals as well as agencies such as the SEC.

Mr Chaiwut said the Royal Thai Police agreed to be an additional defendant in filing the lawsuit that related to fraud on Facebook’s sponsored pages.

It was Facebook’s responsibility to strengthen its screening system to help eliminate fraud on the sponsored pages as those pages generated advertising money for the platform, Mr Chaiwut said.

According to the ministry, some sponsored ads illegally used the Stock Exchange of Thailand symbol and names of listed companies to lure investors to trade gold.

The ministry also warned people not to easily fall victim to such pages, which paid to create sponsored ads. Most will promise a high investment return in a short period and use pictures of celebrities and famous businesspeople to claim that they jointly invest with the pages.

The scammers also urge people to quickly make an investment decision to avoid missing high returns.

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