Richard Branson sends lawyers after social media giants to tackle crypto scams

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Billionaire and Virgin CEO Richard Branson has instructed lawyers to focus on big social media platforms promoting crypto scams fraudulently using his name.

According to an interview with Bloomberg, Branson previously spoke with Meta’s (formerly Facebook) chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg about fake promotions using his likeness — and told lawyers to go after social media platforms who have hosted similar scams.

“It’s a terrible thing because it affects a small person who can ill afford it,” the Virgin chief said. However, Branson says he’s exhausting resources to crackdown on the crypto scams: “We are doing enormous amounts to try to stop it.”

The interview took place in Austin, Texas this weekend as part of Branson’s announcement of a new Virgin Atlantic route connecting London to Austin. 

Branson has previously voiced his support in curbing crypto scams in the UK alongside several public figures. 

The group successfully called for amendments to an ongoing Online Safety Bill which would see tech firms such as Facebook and Twitter being held responsible for fraudulent and unlicensed ads in the UK. Currently, the bill is in the House of Commons and must still go through the House of Lords before becoming law.

Sandberg is soon stepping down as Meta COO and under investigation by the tech giant after being accused of using company resources for personal gain.

Read more: UK crypto firms given two months to clean up their ads or face closure

Billionaires against crypto scams

There’s an ongoing gripe with fake crypto ads across the billionaire spectrum. In February, Australian billionaire Andrew Forest launched a criminal case against Facebook over fake crypto ads using his likeness, alleging Facebook “knowingly profits from this cycle of illegal ads.”

Facebook failed to show up to initial court hearings in March — instead, it sent a letter to Forrest’s legal team stating it wouldn’t appear because the Perth court has no jurisdiction. A ‘not guilty’ plea was entered in its absence.

Elon Musk has also recently hit back against Alphabet-owned social and video platform YouTube for failing to tackle scam ads.

Videos of the Tesla chief commonly circulate on hacked channels, which receive a complete rebrand to appear as Tesla’s official account. Livestreams of Musk promoting various cryptocurrencies fool users into sending tokens to hacker-controlled wallets.

Just last week, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney found an unofficial Fortnite token he labelled a “scam.” The company’s lawyers were sent after the fake accounts — the site and corresponding Twitter account have since gone offline.

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