Facebook pleads not guilty in Twiggy clickbait battle

Facebook's parent company Meta will fight on against criminal charges brought by philanthropist billionaire Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest over an alleged cryptocurrency clickbait advertising scam.

Lawyers for the tech giant formally pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in Armadale Magistrates Court to three counts of recklessly dealing with proceeds of crime to the value of $1000 or more.

The matter was committed to the West Australian District Court, where the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions is expected to take over the prosecution because a private citizen cannot prosecute charges on indictment.

The mining magnate has accused Meta of being criminally reckless in allowing bogus advertisements for a cryptocurrency investment scheme using his image to appear on its site.

Meta logo at its US headquarters (file image)
Meta lawyers pleaded not guilty to three counts of recklessly dealing with proceeds of crime.

When Dr Forrest launched the case last year it was the first time Meta had been prosecuted with criminal charges connected to running its social media platform.

It's alleged the company failed to take sufficient steps to take down the scam advertisements, which feature Dr Forrest and other prominent Australians.

Dr Forrest was also ordered to hand over hundreds of sensitive documents he'd been fighting to keep private.

Meta previously issued a summons for 20 categories of documents after accusing the mining magnate's lawyers of failing to hand over papers relevant to the legal battle.

These included personal emails and communication about overseas litigation funding for the case he has launched against the platform in the United States.

Meta also demanded a copy of a privileged draft letter sent by Dr Forrest's lawyers to the commonwealth attorney-general after it accused them of failing to hand over papers relevant to the legal battle.

Multiple emails were also among the documents sought, including communication between Dr Forrest's lawyers, emails to expert witnesses and reports about the use of third-party advertisements featuring his name.

Magistrate Melita Medcalf's ruling ends 18 months of bickering between the parties over the documents.

Meta didn't have it all its way, however, with Ms Medcalf denying the company access to certain privileged documents it had sought.

TV presenter and journalist Allison Langdon (file image)
A fake Facebook video purports to show Dr Forrest and others being interviewed by Allison Langdon.

She also refused its application to use the documents in other similar cases, including its battle against the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Dr Forrest, the founder of Perth-based Fortescue Metals Group, has previously said he made repeated requests to Facebook to take down the advertisements which he alleges appeared in 2019.

He also launched civil proceedings against Facebook in California in September 2021.

Meta has fought vehemently against the case, initially telling the iron ore billionaire's lawyers it wouldn't attend an earlier hearing because it did not believe the court had jurisdiction.

In its absence, the court previously entered a plea of not guilty.

Dr Forrest has recently appeared alongside federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers, billionaire Gina Rinehart and entrepreneur Dick Smith in another deep fake video intended to scam social media users.

The Facebook video purports to show them being interviewed by A Current Affair host Allison Langdon about a new investment opportunity but it's false.

Genuine clips from interviews and news reports have been manipulated using artificial intelligence.

The WA matter will return to the District Court on February 9.

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