UK Authorities Turn Attention to Facebook in National Piracy Crackdown

The prevalence of counterfeit goods sold on social media sites such as Facebook has led British authorities to launch one of the biggest ever enforcement operations of its kind in a concerted bid to combat online piracy.

Led by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team in conjunction with the National Markets Group, Operation Jasper has seen officers raid 12 separate locations in the United Kingdom where they recovered a wide range of counterfeit and potentially dangerous products, ranging from fake Android TV boxes to Cinderella dolls containing high levels of toxic chemicals, which were being advertised on Facebook.

22 investigations are still on-going, while 4,300 Facebook listings and 20 Facebook profiles have been taken down. The eCrime team has additionally issued over 200 warning letters and delivered 24 cease and desist letters to the homes of suspected Facebook sellers.

According to the British Government's latest IP Crime Report, social media has overtaken auction sites as criminals’ preferred platform for counterfeit and piracy activity. Facebook's official advertising policy, meanwhile, prohibits the promotion of  "illegal products, services or activities," including "content that infringes upon or violates the rights of any third party, including copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity, or other personal or proprietary rights."

“Operation Jasper has struck an important psychological blow against criminals who believe they can operate with impunity on social media platforms without getting caught,” said Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, in a statement. “It shows we can track them down, enter their homes, seize their goods and computers and arrest and prosecute them, even if they are operating anonymously online.”

Officers from 63 local authority trading standards’ teams, the police, industry bodies and government agencies took part in the nationwide scheme, which targeted the illegal and highly lucrative trade of counterfeit computers, tablets, mobile phones, T-shirts and leisurewear.

A raid on a residential premise in the West Midlands unearthed one of the biggest finds, when officers discovered a small manufacturing plant turning out counterfeit T-shirts. Although no specific music product was recovered by the National Trading Standards, ‘replica’ Beats headphones and TV and music streaming devices are among the most popular counterfeit items commonly advertised on social media sites.