A Facebook executive has told MPs that the social media platform has removed "thousands" of fake adverts featuring MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis, after he reported 50 to it.

Speaking to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Thursday morning, Facebook's chief technical officer Mike Schroepfer said the company had completed an extensive investigation and used technical tools to remove the ads.

And he added that ultimately Facebook hoped to use facial recognition to catch more fake ads "automatically" rather than relying on reports from users.

The committee hearing comes days after Martin announced that in a personal capacity he is suing Facebook for defamation in a groundbreaking campaigning lawsuit, as a result of repeated fake adverts using his picture and name appearing on the platform. Since that was announced Martin's been inundated with reports of more fake ads, including on Facebook.

For more details of the lawsuit, read why Martin's suing Facebook - in his own words.

Martin Lewis
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What did Facebook tell MPs?

Asked by the committee chair Damian Collins about the issues raised by Martin in his lawsuit, Mr Schroepfer said: "In the case of Mr Lewis, he reported in the order of 50 ads to us, and as a result of that we did a more extensive investigation using our technical tools and found 1,000s of other ads, which is a problem, and took all of them down proactively.

"More importantly, we found dozens of actors - people - who are fraudulently advertising on the platform, and took them off the platform."

Collins then put it to Schroepfer that Martin doesn't do ads and asked why Facebook doesn't use facial recognition to detect adverts featuring him.

Schroepfer replied: "We haven't had facial recognition enabled in the EU until very recently. It wasn't even a feature we could offer to our users so we're just in the process of rolling that out.

"It is challenging technically at scale. It was one of the things I am hopeful for in the future - that would catch more of these things automatically."

Schroepfer also insisted Facebook had taken action over ads relating to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin - which many of the fake Martin ads have been about.

Schroepfer said: "We took a hard look at the hype going around cryptocurrencies and decided when we started looking at the ads being run there, the vast majority of the ads there were not good ads. So we banned the entire category and said: 'You can't run cryptocurrency ads because the likely harm to the consumer is too high.'"

Martin: 'Creepy' to hear of thousands of ads

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "It is creepy to hear that there have been thousands of adverts. This makes a farce of Facebook's suggestion earlier this week that to get it to take down fake ads I have to report them to it.

"Facebook allows advertisers to use what is called 'dark ads'. This means they are targeted only at set individuals and are not shown in a time line.

"That means I have no way of knowing about them. I never get to hear about them. So how on earth could I report them? It is not my job to police Facebook. It is Facebook’s job - it is the one being paid to publish scams.

"The fact that it now says it has just done a purge of these ads doesn’t change anything. I’ve been very plain that this is a campaigning law suit aimed to stop vulnerable people being scammed by fake ads. A one-off cleansing, only of ads with my name in, isn't good enough. It needs to change its whole system."

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