COMMENT 

Last-chance saloon?

James Evelegh's editorial from this week's edition of InPubWeekly.

By James Evelegh

Last-chance saloon?

David Mellor once famously warned the press that it was "drinking in the last-chance saloon". I’m beginning to wonder whether Facebook might soon be joining them at the bar.

Money saving expert and consumer champion Martin Lewis is suing Facebook for exemplary damages in the High Court.

Hearing him talk on Radio 4, he was brim-full of righteous indignation. He never does adverts, yet fraudulent ads with his image on them keep popping up on Facebook, thereby tarnishing his reputation and luring trusting souls into rip-off schemes.

He has complained, often, but to no avail: “It is consistent, it is repeated. What is particularly pernicious about Facebook is that it says the onus is on me, so I have spent time and effort and stress repeatedly to have them taken down.

“It is facilitating scams on a constant basis in a morally repugnant way. If Mark Zuckerburg wants to be the champion of moral causes, then he needs to stop his company doing this.”

“No newspaper would have run these adverts.”

According to Lewis’s solicitor, “exemplary damages are being sought. This means we will ask the court to ensure they are substantial enough that Facebook can’t simply see paying out damages as just the ‘cost of business’ and carry on regardless.”

Facebook has built its fortune on extremely light touch self-regulation, harvesting enormous amounts of personal data, allowing widespread access to it, and then being slow to react to its misuse.

Get-rich-quick scammers and dark-souled trolls have never had it so good.

Yet, a backlash is forming. The data-conscious EU looks set to get involved, as does the US congress. And, now, Martin Lewis, an extremely credible litigant, has got them in his sights. It’s hard to see him not winning his case. Good luck to him.