Measures to protect people from internet scams will now be included in proposed online safety laws, the government said.
Under an earlier draft of the Online Safety Regulation, platforms hosting user-generated content would have a “duty of care” to protect users from fraud by other users. However, with this new change, the bill requires online platforms to not only protect them from user-generated fraud, but also from fraudulent prepaid advertisements appearing on their services.
These include unlicensed financial promotions or scammers posing as legitimate companies, as well as ads for fake companies.
The change affects the largest and most influential social media companies and search engines such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google.
According to the draft law, such platforms and search engines must “establish adequate systems and processes to prevent the publication and/or hosting of deceptive advertisements on their services and to remove them upon being made aware of them”.
An example of these fake ads are posts on Google and Facebook that imitate the image of Money Saving Expert founder Martin Lewis and use them to scam users.
News of the amendments to the bill coincides with the launch of a government public consultation on its online advertising program to examine current regulations and assess whether they are adequately funded.
The results of the public consultation could mean that influencers who do not declare social media posts as advertising when they are paid to promote products could face tougher penalties.
Commenting on the changes to the bill, Nadine Dorries, Minister for Culture, said: “We want to protect people from online fraud and have heard calls to strengthen our new internet safety laws. These changes to the upcoming Online Safety Act will help deter scammers from tricking people of their hard-earned money with fake online ads.”
Lewis said: “I am grateful that the Government has listened to me and the vast number of other activists – banks, insurance companies, consumer groups, charities, police and regulators – who have been desperate to ensure online safety covers fraud reports The invoice. We are in the midst of an epidemic of scam ads. Scams don’t just destroy people’s finances — they affect their self-esteem, their mental health, and even make some consider suicide.
“For the government to now accept the principle that fraudulent advertising must be included and that companies who are paid to publish advertising must be held accountable is a crucial first step. So far, only user-generated scams have been covered – risking showing more scam ads and leading criminals to change their strategy.”
The Online Safety Act is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny by a joint committee of MPs and peers.