Nigeria regulator seeks $70M penalty in lawsuit against Meta
FILE - A car passes Facebook's new Meta logo on a sign at the company headquarters, on Oct. 28, 2021, in Menlo Park, Calif. A Nigerian advertising regulator has sued Meta, accusing the owner of Facebook and WhatsApp of publishing unauthorized ads. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian advertising regulator has sued Meta, accusing the owner of Facebook and WhatsApp of publishing unauthorised ads and seeking a 30 billion naira ($70 million) fine.

The lawsuit filed in a local court by the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria, or ARCON, is the regulator's latest action that analysts say could hurt businesses highly dependent on digital ads for their growth.

Nigerian advertising laws require the regulator to approve ads based on certain criteria with the involvement of an advertising practitioner in Africa's largest economy.

"Before you put out anything, it should be vetted and approved by ARCON first before exposure," the agency said Tuesday. "Anything that has not been vetted and approved by ARCON is a violation of our law."

A Meta spokesperson said the company doesn't comment on ongoing legal claims.

The regulator published some details from the court filings, including a request for a declaration "that the continued publication and exposure of various advertisements directed at the Nigerian market through Facebook and Instagram platforms by Meta Platforms Incorporated without ensuring same is vetted and approved before exposure is illegal, unlawful and a violation of the extant advertising Law in Nigeria."

The Nigerian government said Meta displaying unvetted ads has cost the country a loss of revenue, without providing details.

The agency warned against "unethical and irresponsible advertising on Nigeria's advertising space," raising questions over what constitutes such advertising.

The court case against Meta comes about a year after the Nigerian government began moves to get social media networks to run local offices in the country. That followed a seven-month ban on Twitter, which the government had accused of allowing "persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence."

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