How Facebook Ripped Off Zoe Keating’s Fanbase
After Zoë Keating was forced to cancel a live concert due to COVID, scammers leapt at the opportunity to create a fake, live-streamed version of the show. Although Keating was quick to inform Facebook of the crime, the social media giant took little action in response.
Guest post from Music Technology Policy
In the “you fight me, you fight my gang” department, ZoëKeating and her extraordinarily loyal fans were the subject of an outright fraud on Facebook described in her tweet above. In short–due to COVID, Zoë had to cancel a live concert originally scheduled on August 30. No live stream had been planned.
Scammers must have noticed the cancellation and fabricated a fake live stream that they promoted on Facebook for the same day as the cancelled concert all without Zoë’s knowledge.
Scammers sold “tickets” to this fake live stream and kept the money, ripping off Zoë’s fans. Needless to say, if this were to happen in the real music business instead of the digital universe…well, stuff would happen. Chances are pretty good that the same kind of thing has happened to other artists–please leave a comment if it happened to you.
Facebook–aka the Ministry of Truthiness–did nothing. Bear in mind–this is very likely several different kinds of crime. (Including price-gouging in a disaster along with wire fraud among other things.) Facebook was informed of it at least by Zoë if not her fans, and did nothing.
Well, not exactly nothing, they tried to pass it off as “avoiding things you don’t want to see on Facebook.” It’s hard to even understand what that really means, but one thing it definitely means is Facebook took no responsibility for even investigating the crime or referring it to law enforcement. Facebook’s worthless customer service people may not be able to make change, but they are likely in the best position to follow the money on any scams using their platform.
It’s unclear to me whether Facebook actually made a vig off of this crime, but chances are good that if money changed hands on their platform for tickets or advertising or both, Facebook somehow got their beaks wet. Yet Facebook’s failure to take action makes it as guilty as the criminals they facilitated in this and a host of daily crimes Facebook facilitates–as Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” As is hiding behind the cost of evil.
News of this escapade got to some artist groups who wrote this letter to a number of law enforcement types, being the Attorneys General of the United States, California and Vermont and the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (which has direct regulatory authority over false advertising):
Attorney General Barr, Chairman Simons, Attorney General Bexerra, and Attorney General Donovan,
We ask each of your offices to investigate Facebook for participating in a scheme to defraud cellist Zoe Keating, an unknown number of her fans, and undoubtedly thousands of other working artists.
The fraud scheme enabled and supported by Facebook is simple.
Before the pandemic struck, Ms. Keating was scheduled to perform a live concert on August 30, 2020, at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, Oregon. Like virtually all other live concerts in the United States this summer, that gig was canceled several months ago to protect the public health.
On the day of the event, however, Ms. Keating apparently learned that someone using the names “Make Me Fly” and “Fun Channel” had posted a solicitation on Facebook selling access to a non-existent livestream of the event, using Ms. Keating’s name and photograph as part of an obvious scheme to defraud people and ultimately divert income consumers intended to pay her to the perpetrators.[*]
Ms. Keating immediately reported this scheme to Facebook which responded that “This event was reviewed and though it doesn’t go against any one of our specific community standards, we understand something shared on it may still be offensive to you.” Facebook also suggested she change her personal settings so she would not see these fraudulent ads in the future.
Fraudsters misappropriating Ms. Keating’s name and image and conducting whatever kind of scam they are running on her fans is bad enough. Doing so during a pandemic that has driven millions out of work and decimated touring artists, road crews, and live venues is especially grotesque.
We urge you to hold Facebook accountable for its participation in this scheme and to investigate how many other such livestream schemes are present on the platform, deceiving fans and draining income away from working class artists.
Facebook’s knowing participation in this scheme – at least since the moment of Ms. Keating’s report and potentially earlier depending on what your investigation reveals – including any actions by the company or its algorithms to promote or amplify this or similar fraudulent livestreams are strong evidence of its potential culpability for wire fraud or other computer crimes as well as potential state and FTC consumer protection enforcement as well. We also ask you to consider whether Facebook’s statement that this scheme does not violate its own Community Standards creates additional state and federal liability.[†]
Thank you very much for aggressively stepping forward to protect consumers, music fans, and artists from Facebook-driven fraud.
Advocating Against Romance Scammers
Alliance to Counter Crime Online
Artist Rights Alliance
Freedom from Facebook and Google
[*] Ms. Keating’s tweets and Facebook post documenting this event are available here, here, and here. A Screen shot of the fraudulent Facebook page taken on September 14, 2020 is attached. The fraudulent page was located at this now dead link.
[†] Additional violations of state and federal law concerning unfair and deceptive acts, false endorsement or trademark dilution/tarnishment, rights of publicity, or phishing/data violations may also be present. We also question whether the prominent photograph of Ms. Keating featured on the Livestream page is properly licensed or whether the copyright laws may have been violated. We urge you to be resourceful in finding appropriate avenues for prosecution and civil enforcement to deter these kinds of schemes in the future.