Andrew Forrest (Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest has launched a world-first criminal case against Facebook, alleging that the tech giant has breached federal anti-money-laundering laws by not cracking down sufficiently on scam ads that feature celebrities such as himself.

This started in the latter half of 2019, when the Fortescue Metals founder and chairman wrote a letter to Facebook (now rebranded as Meta) CEO Mark Zuckerberg demanding that he take more action to prevent misleading advertising on his platform.

Forrest claimed that his image was being used to encourage Facebook users to invest in fraudulent cryptocurrency schemes, and demanded action.

Andrew Forrest Facebook scam ad
An example of one of the crypto scam ads circulating about ‘Twiggy’ Forrest and his wealth (Image: Twitter)

“You have the power and the technology to prevent these scam advertisements from running on your platform,” he wrote. “Is revenue more important to you than the life savings of elderly people, Mr Zuckerberg?”

The action in the Western Australia Magistrates Court is the first time the tech giant has faced criminal charges anywhere in the world. The charges have been brought under the Commonwealth criminal code with the consent of Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, Forrest said.

Scam ads are banned on Facebook and Meta told Nine: “We take a multifaceted approach to stop these ads. We work not just to detect and reject the ads themselves but also block advertisers from our services and, in some cases, take court action to enforce our policies.”

However, as Crikey reported last year, the leaked Facebook Papers, which give a limited view of its internal workings, show it is unable or unwilling to prevent its products from causing real-world harm.

And when it comes to users outside the United States, this lack of action is even more pronounced.