Starling Bank boycotts Facebook over scam ads

Starling Bank boycotts Facebook over scam ads
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Starling Bank has said it will no longer pay for advertising on Facebook or Instagram in an effort to protect its customers from scammers.

In a blog post, Starling’s chief executive Anne Boden justified the boycott by highlighting the lack of action Facebook’s parent, Meta, has taken against fraudulent advertising compared to fellow internet giant Google.

Since August, financial services advertisers have had to show Google they are authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority or qualify for one of Google’s limited exemptions. 

In December, Facebook's parent Meta, Microsoft and Twitter said they would follow in Google’s footsteps after calls from MPs for these platforms to carry out more thorough checks.

Meta is yet to make any changes of its own, but FTAdviser understands the company expects to launch something similar to Google later this year.

“We are still waiting to find out when and how this initiative will happen,” said Boden. “In the meantime, we’ve stopped all paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram.”

She added: “We want to protect our customers and our brand integrity. We can no longer pay to advertise on a platform alongside scammers who are going after the savings of our customers and those of other banks.”

Meta responded by saying it was dedicating significant resources to tackling the issue of scams on and off its platforms.

In recent years, Meta has made some moves to tackle online scams despite criticism to the contrary.

It is now against the social media giant’s policies to promote or facilitate financial scams, including ones which promise high rates of return. Its advertising policies also prohibit ads which promise unrealistic results or guarantee a financial return.

In 2020, the company also launched a UK scam ad alert system with the Advertising Standards Authority. Today, it counts some 40,000 people in its global safety and security team.

In the third quarter of last year, this team disabled more than 1.3bn fake accounts on Facebook.

But Boden has argued Mark Zuckerberg's decision to create a ‘Metaverse’ - essentially 3D spaces where Facebook users can socialise - means Meta's focus on tackling scam ads could lose steam.

“When I read that Facebook’s next big project, the Metaverse, is predicted to be the key driver of the growth of finance and decentralised finance in the 2020s and beyond, I know that this is likely to be both wrong and right,” she said.

“While Facebook may hold out all sorts of promises for the future, I really hope its focus on the Metaverse doesn’t become a distraction from doing what is right today, here and now in the UK of 2022.”

Investment scams racked up £107.7m in losses for consumers in the first half of 2021, doubling from £55.2m over the same period in 2020. 

In September, UK Finance blamed social media adverts for the 95 per cent rise, citing their claims of high returns on investments as the reason.