ABUJA – Nigeria’s advertising regulator sued Meta, accusing the Facebook and WhatsApp owner of publishing unauthorized ads and demanding a fine of 30 billion naira ($70 million).

The suit, filed in a local court by the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria, or ARCON, is the latest action by the regulator that analysts say could hurt businesses that rely heavily on digital advertising for growth.

Nigeria’s advertising laws require the regulator to approve ads based on certain criteria with the input of an advertising specialist in Africa’s largest economy.

“Before anything is put out, it must be reviewed and approved by ARCON prior to exposure,” the agency said Tuesday. “Anything that has not been reviewed and approved by ARCON is a violation of our law.”

A Meta spokesman said the company does not comment on ongoing lawsuits.

The regulator released some details from the court documents, including a request for a declaration “that the continuous publication and display of various advertisements targeting the Nigerian market through the Facebook and Instagram platforms by Meta Platforms Incorporated without ensuring that they are verified and approved before the autopsy. illegal, unlawful and in violation of the current Advertising Act in Nigeria”.

The Nigerian government said Meta’s display of unverified ads cost the country lost revenue, without elaborating.

The agency warns against “unethical and irresponsible advertising on the Nigerian advertising space”, raising questions about what advertising is.

The court case against Meta comes about a year after the Nigerian government began taking steps to force the social media to run local offices in the country. This followed a seven-month ban on Twitter, which the government accused of allowing “the continued use of the platform for activities that could undermine the corporate existence of Nigeria”.

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Associated Press reporter Kelvin Chan contributed from London.

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