TV host in war over Facebook ads

Rachel Smalley. Photo Getty
Rachel Smalley. Photo Getty
TV3 presenter Rachel Smalley is on a crusade to remove photographs of herself and other New Zealand stars from weight-loss adverts on Facebook that they did not endorse.

But the social networking site has told her that unless she can prove ownership of her photo, it will not remove it.

The ads, which link to websites for gyms, feature pictures of Rachel Hunter, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Alison Mau, Petra Bagust, Jeanette Thomas, Toni Street and Shavaughan Ruakere.

They started appearing last year and the Herald revealed in December that TVNZ had complained to Facebook.

One of the ads featuring Firstline star Smalley claims she lost 30kg in five weeks.

Smalley said she first noticed her picture last week. It had been taken off the Woman's Weekly website alongside an interview she did with the magazine. She has kept her Twitter followers up to date over the past 10 days with her battle to remove it.

"It's madness," she said. "I'm told we can't do anything about [it] but there must be a way ... I'm determined!

"FB say they can't see the ad - won't do anything about it. Grrrr ... It's completely done my head in. I'm going nuts - and the arrogance of FB is off the charts."

Smalley's series of emails and a phone call to the company proved fruitless.

"I also can't believe I'm trying to fix the problem myself," she said.

"Surprised corporates aren't more prepared for this type of fraud ... Another email from Facebook. They say unless I can prove ownership of my photo, they won't remove it from their advertiser's link ... My crusade continues."

Les Mills and ABSolute Health & Fitness in Dunedin have been linked to the adverts but deny advertising on Facebook.

NetSafe chief technology officer Sean Lyons said it appeared dodgy companies were using unsuspecting gyms to attract clients, before changing the links a week later to websites which had several pop-ups and were more harmful to your computer, for more drastic weight-loss measures like "miracle berries".

"There's a bedding-in period ... They initially pointed to great things, legitimate businesses that had no knowledge of them, quite clearly. They take a week or so, and I guess that maybe gets them over the 'are they good ads, are they bad ads?' - it may be Facebook studying them to see whether they do what they say.

"A week's worth of Facebook links, clicking through to 'Buy these miracle berries and transform yourself into Angelina Jolie overnight' will generate a fair whack of money."

Mr Lyons said anyone could advertise through Facebook by following simple links and handing over their credit card.

NetSafe had contacted Facebook after the Herald December story and the company removed several ads.

A man who answered the phone at Facebook's Australasia branch yesterday said the advertiser usually picked the photographs.

"We can create targeted ads based on a specific target audience ... When someone joins Facebook, they share a lot of information about things they enjoy doing. What we do is use that information to show them ads that are relevant to them."

The Herald was then referred to the media contact, who said: "We remove all ads that are reported to us that violate our policies."

- Alanah Eriksen of the NZ Herald

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