Miriam O’Callaghan to sue Facebook over ads

RTÉ presenter Miriam O’Callaghan is set for a face-off with Facebook over fake claims that she is involved in a face cream business.

The radio and television host is to issue defamation proceedings against the social media giant for alleged failures to stop the false advertising circulating repeatedly for almost a year.

Some of the ads placed on Facebook have been designed to look like news articles and falsely claimed Ms O’Callaghan was an enthusiastic user of the product, was winding down her broadcasting career to focus on promoting the product, and, in one version, was even causing upset and problems for her employers by her erratic behaviour in the workplace.

She told a Sunday newspaper this was the final straw as friends and family members had seen the fake report and were worried by what they read, including her 12-year-old son.

She said the advertiser was being facilitated by Facebook to use the fake claims as clickbait to draw potential buyers to their product.

To make matters worse, the product is part of a scam that encourages people to provide their credit card details in return for a free trial and later deducts money even when they don’t order any more. Ms O’Callaghan has previously issued warnings on her own social media accounts to try to alert people to the scam.

Ms O’Callaghan said her solicitor, Paul Tweed, had tried to get Facebook to respond adequately but she had no choice now but to go to court.

Facebook has a comprehensive policy for advertisers that states that before ads appear on Facebook, they are reviewed to make sure that they meet the company’s advertising policies.

It says, typically, most adverts are reviewed within 24 hours, although in some cases, it may take longer. That policy, summarised, states: “Ads must not contain deceptive, false, or misleading content, including deceptive claims, offers, or business practices.”

But policing those standards on a platform as vast as Facebook is where it is argued the company has fallen down. A Facebook spokesperson said the company had acted on Ms O’Callaghan’s complaint. “Adverts which are misleading, false, or infringe on third-party rights are in violation of Facebook’s ads policies, and we remove them as soon as we become aware of them,” said the spokesperson.

“The ads that were reported to us by Miriam O’Callaghan have been removed and the relevant accounts disabled. We’re constantly working to detect and shut down this kind of ad activity using a combination of automated and manual systems.”

Mr Tweed, one of the top defamation lawyers in the country, currently has another case before the High Court involving a similar complaint with an international flavour.

Mohammad Dahlan, the former internal security chief of Fatah, is suing Facebook over the distribution of articles he alleges were defamatory of him. He is suing through the Irish courts because of the presence of Facebook’s international headquarters here.

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