Two Facebook executives joined a meeting at 4.30 a.m. to show how serious the company is about averting a potentially embarrassing lawsuit from a British millionaire.
The unnamed executives video called into the two-hour London meeting from Facebook offices in San Francisco on Wednesday, while Steve Hatch, 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 for defamation 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 will donate any of the damages he is awarded to anti-scam charities.
But he came out the meeting on Wednesday reassured that Facebook is now 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. They get they’ve been doing far too many scam ads. They get that they’re out of control,” he said. He added that his primary objective is 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 that Lewis can’t discuss what was said, but Business Insider understands that Facebook explained some of its automated techniques for removing unwanted content.
Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer told British lawmakers last month that the firm is hoping to use facial recognition and other machine learning to root out fake adverts in the future. It is also examining ways to remove the bad actors behind the adverts from Facebook altogether.
Business Insider has contacted Facebook for comment.