Facebook has tried to shut down ads that illegally used South African billionaire Mark Shuttleworth as its "front man" - but hours later they popped up again.
Shuttleworth’s name and picture have been posted on adverts promoting cryptocurrency scams on Facebook and on fake news websites.
The images and ads look similar to those used for a scam called QProfit System, which surfaced earlier this year. That scam claims that its designer, Jerry Douglas, was asked by Shuttleworth to develop a cryptocurrency system. It also creates the impression that Shuttleworth is out for “revenge” after losing a R250.5 million lawsuit against the Reserve Bank.
Shuttleworth, who has an estimated fortune of R9.6 billion and is CEO of the open-source operating system provider Canonical, has denied any involvement in a blog post.
“I can’t comment on whether or not Jerry Douglas promotes a QProfit System and whether or not it’s fraud. But I can tell you categorically that there are many scams like this, and that this investment has absolutely nothing to do with me. I haven’t developed this software and I have no desire to defraud the South African government or anyone else. I’m doing what I can to get the fraudulent sites taken down. But please take heed and don’t fall for these scams,” wrote Shuttleworth.
Ads for the new version of the scam, which asks for an initial fee of $250 (R3,750), have recently appeared on Facebook. Here, Shuttleworth’s face and a false testimony are used to promote a scheme for an app called Bitcoin Trader and Bitcoin Revolution. The ads take the users to different fake news websites, including a site called POIP News.
Facebook was alerted to the new scam ads last week. On Monday it responded by removing the ads.
“We do not allow adverts which are misleading or false on Facebook and encourage people to report any adverts that they believe infringe on their rights, or shouldn’t be on Facebook. As soon as these pages and ads were highlighted to us, we worked promptly to remove them and can confirm that several accounts and pages that violated our Advertising Policies have been taken down," said a spokesperson.