- Facebook executives attended a meeting in the early hours of the morning on Wednesday to try to avert an embarrassing lawsuit from the British millionaire Martin Lewis.
- Lewis is suing Facebook in a defamation lawsuit after scammers used his image in thousands of fake ads for bitcoin schemes.
- He said that the meeting was “constructive” and that he was “hopeful” an out-of-court settlement could be reached with Facebook.
Two Facebook executives joined a meeting at 4:30 a.m. to show how serious the company was about averting a potentially embarrassing lawsuit from a British millionaire, according to a source with knowledge of the encounter.
The unnamed executives video-called in to the two-hour London meeting from Facebook offices in San Francisco early Wednesday, while Steve Hatch, the vice president of Facebook Northern Europe, represented the company in the room.
They want to reach an out-of-court settlement with Martin Lewis, the high-profile British consumer-rights champion who is suing Facebook in a defamation lawsuit after scammers used his image in thousands of fake ads for bitcoin schemes.
Lewis has said he will take his legal battle to the UK’s High Court after becoming frustrated with Facebook’s sluggish response to his takedown requests.
He is a thorny foe for Facebook, with a formidable record as a consumer-rights campaigner, a big following, and the trust of the British public. He is also represented by Mark Lewis, a media lawyer at Seddons who was at the forefront of efforts to expose the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.
Lewis, who has a net worth of £125 million ($169 million), according to The Sunday Times, does not intend to profit from the case. Instead, he has said he will donate any of the damages he is awarded to anti-scam charities.
But he came out of Wednesday’s meeting reassured that Facebook was taking the matter seriously. In a short video post filmed outside Facebook’s Regent’s Place campus in London, he said the encounter was “constructive.”
“They get the problem,” he said. “They get they’ve been doing far too many scam ads. They get that they’re out of control.” He added that his primary objective was to vanquish the ads and “put right was has gone wrong” by helping people who have been conned by the “get rich quick” schemes.
“I am hopeful,” he said. “My biggest question is not their attitude – it’s whether they can actually deliver, whether they can actually stop the scams happening.”
The meeting was held without prejudice, meaning Lewis can’t discuss what was said, but Business Insider understands that Facebook explained some of its automated techniques for removing unwanted content.
Facebook’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, told British lawmakers last month that the firm was hoping to use facial recognition and other machine learning to root out fake ads. It is also examining ways to remove the bad actors behind the ads from Facebook altogether.
Business Insider has contacted Facebook for comment.