Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp parent company, Meta Inc. is enmeshed in another litigation scandal and this time in Nigeria, a West African country.
Meta Inc. and its Nigerian public relations agency, AT3 are being sued by the country’s advertising regulator, the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) at the Federal High court, Abuja Judicial Division for violating advertising laws.
The regulator is in the suit seeking a ₦30 billion (~$50 million) damage against Meta for the violation of the advertising laws and for loss of revenue as a result of the company’s continued exposure of unapproved adverts on its platforms.
ARCON in a statement released on Tuesday is seeking a declaration among others that Meta through continuous publications and exposure to various advertisements via platforms, Facebook and Instagram directed at the Nigerian market without recourse to having them vetted and approved by the relevant authorities is deemed illegal, unlawful and a violation of the extant advertising law in Nigeria. The advertising regulator also noted that Meta’s continued exposure of unvetted adverts had also led to a loss of revenue to the Federal Government. “ARCON reiterates that it would not permit unethical and irresponsible advertising on Nigeria’s advertising space,” the statement from the apex advertising regulatory body read.
The agency further clarified that it’s not regulating the online media space but advertising and marketing communications on the online platforms in line with its establishment Act.
ARCON got its powers to regulate the Nigerian advertising industry in the wake of a new bill passed by the Nigerian National Assembly and assented by President Buhari in August, 2022. The new bill had among other things repealed the Advertising Practitioners (Registration, etc.) Act, Cap. A7, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and went further to enact the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) Act, 2022, in the process recognizing ARCON as the apex authority for the Nigerian advertising industry.
One of the first actions of ARCON was the August announcement of a ban on the use of foreign voice-over artists and models in the country, with the ban taking effect from October 1.
Part of the statement read:
“…in the area of ICT, we stand to conserve a lot of foreign exchange if the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, decides to toe the ARCON line by enforcing local content in the consumption of ICT products.”