Facebook takes down ads linked to fake article on billionaire

The fake article comes amid false reports designed to look like they are linked to Singapore Press Holdings.
The fake article comes amid false reports designed to look like they are linked to Singapore Press Holdings.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM UBERADD.COM

An online article in which Singapore billionaire Lim Oon Kuin seemingly promotes the benefits of cryptocurrency in an interview is fake, said his oil trading and shipping company Hin Leong Group.

The fake article comes amid false reports designed to look like they are linked to Singapore Press Holdings. These reports include a fake article soliciting investments in bitcoins by using fabricated comments from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The fake article on Mr Lim is similar to the fabricated PM Lee report.

Links to these fake reports have also been circulating on Facebook as sponsored posts by pages on the social media platform with seemingly unrelated names, such as Destin to Travel, Fresh Pies and Fauna Articles.

Facebook told The Straits Times on Tuesday that it has removed the advertisements promoting the fabricated articles and disabled their associated accounts and pages on the social media platform.

Even so, some of the Facebook pages that promoted the fake reports could still be found as of 7pm on Tuesday.

Mr Lim is listed by Forbes as Singapore's 18th richest person this year, with a net worth of US$1.7 billion (S$2.35 billion).

 
 
 
 

A Hin Leong spokesman said on Tuesday that the purported interview with Mr Lim, the group's founder, did not take place.

"Mr Lim Oon Kuin does not condone any of the alleged statements and representations set out in the article which are attributed to him," Hin Leong's spokesman told ST.

He added that Mr Lim has no knowledge of the Bitcoin Revolution, a cryptocurrency trading application that is mentioned in the fake article.

A Facebook spokesman said the company takes an extremely serious view of misleading advertisements that violate its policies and feature public figures. "It's important to us that ads on Facebook are useful to people and not used for promoting deceptive or scammy behaviour," he said.

He added that the company urges people who see deceptive ads to report them by tapping the three dots in the top right corner of the ad.

Last month, the Monetary Authority of Singapore warned the public about the fraudulent website that used fabricated comments from PM Lee.

It advised members of the public to be cautious and avoid providing financial or personal information on the forms linked from the website. They should also report such cases to the police.

The fake online report with fabricated comments from Hin Leong's Mr Lim also encouraged readers to submit personal details, such as their name, e-mail address and credit card details.

The creators of fraudulent websites often set up pages that they think the man on the street will trust, said Mr Aloysius Cheang, Asia-Pacific executive vice-president of the Centre for Strategic Cyberspace + Security Science.

People can protect themselves by checking businesses' official websites to see if they have engaged the celebrities and personalities in question, he said.

• Not sure if something is fake news? Readers can send an e-mail with their questions and a link to the suspect article to askst@sph.com.sg

• Reports published can be found on the ST website under a special "fake news debunked" section at http://str.sg/fake-news

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2019, with the headline 'Facebook takes down ads linked to fake article on billionaire'. Print Edition | Subscribe