Meta, formerly Facebook, has issued a subpoena for Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest, demanding the mining tycoon provide sensitive documents amid his lawsuit against the social media giant.
The Fortescue Metals Group founder sued Meta over false crypto investment advertisements featuring his image and other Australian public figures. Forrest argued that the company had breached Australian anti-money laundering laws by failing to take appropriate action to stop the ads.
Forrest had already made several requests to Facebook to take down the ads. According to him, the ads first appeared in March 2019 and have continued to appear until this year. Forrest initiated a civil action against the company in California in September 2021.
The tech giant is seeking access to 20 documents, including private emails, including between Forrest’s lawyers, and reports on third-party advertisements featuring Forrest’s name, among others.
During a hearing, Meta expressed doubts that all pertinent information had been supplied from Forrest’s side as additional proof kept emerging.
“Having said emphatically in correspondence in relation to certain categories of documents sought by the defence that there were no further documents to provide, following exchanges of submissions between the parties, there are more,” Meta lawyer Paul Yovich told the court in Perth, Australia.
“When the prosecutor says there are no further documents to disclose I cannot have complete confidence that is completely accurate.”
Meanwhile, Forrest’s legal team argued that Meta’s summons was an abuse of process and unlawful, citing that 18 folders of documents had already been supplied and were in compliance with court rules.
Forrest’s lawyer, Rachael Young, also argued that many of the documents Meta sought were irrelevant to the case.
“The documents sought lack a legitimate forensic purpose and have no relevance to the case,” she told the court. “There needs to be a reasonable possibility that the production [of the documents] will assist the defense, but there’s not.”
Young urged the court to cancel Meta’s summons, citing that Forrest’s team had fulfilled its obligations under thecourt system’s rulesm.
Additionally, the lawyer demanded the court reject Meta’s application to use documents from similar proceedings involving the company in U.S. and Irish courts, as they were irrelevant to the case and protected by legal immunity.
The hearing has been adjourned, and Magistrate Melita Medcalf is expected to issue a ruling on Meta’s request on November 20. If the case progresses to trial, it will handed over to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
It is uncommon for private citizens to bring criminal charges against companies. Michaelia Cash, the then-attorney general, gave Forrest the approval to launch this action under the Commonwealth Criminal Code.
Should Meta be convicted, Forrest’s lawyer said that it would serve as a warning to all social media platforms to reflect on how they run their platforms.
Previously, in August, Thailand’s minister of digital economy and society, Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, announced that the ministry planned to sue Facebook over scam advertisements that resulted in annual losses of tens of millions of dollars for local users. The move could cause the platform to shut down nationwide.
Ministry spokesperson Wetang Phuangsup said that paid advertisements on the site told people to invest in fake companies. Some of the advertisements often used the logo of Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission or featured local celebrities to entice victims.
“We believe that Facebook has a responsibility,” Wetang said. “Facebook is taking money from advertising a lot, and basically even taking money from Thai society as a whole.”
Wetang also said that out of 16,000 online scam complaints filed in Thailand last year, 70 to 80 percent involved Facebook and had cost users more than $100 million.
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