The inclusion of the draft online safety bill in this month’s Queen’s Speech was a welcome first step in tackling issues such as racist bullying, self-harm, child abuse and extremism (“UK proposes new powers to fight online fraud”, Report, May 15). But, as the reaction over the last week has shown, this bill — albeit in draft form — falls far short in tackling the myriad of problems that spring from the absence of appropriate regulation across social media and online sites.
Criticism over the lack of focus on pornography sites and age verification has been rightly thrown at the government, as has the problem of people falling victim to cloned websites and adverts paid for by fraudsters. But it’s precisely the subject of fraudulent behaviour, particularly on social media, that also seems to have been mysteriously overlooked by Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary.
Social media is currently an unregulated space. The introduction of user verification requirements would be an essential step forwards in preventing fraudsters from setting up fake social media accounts to perpetrate criminal activity.
There are a number of commercial solutions that could be implemented today that would start to provide some protection.
The figures say it all — one in 15 people is a victim of fraud each year in the UK, with the internet believed to play a role in more than half. Computer misuse offences were also up last year by 36 per cent to 1.7m — mostly driven by hacking of social media and email.
Social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn need to do more to protect their users through user verification requirements, to prevent social media-enabled fraud and scams from occurring — and that has to start with the online safety bill.
Chief Executive, Synectics Solutions
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, UK
Chair, Fraud Advisory Panel
London EC2, UK