Social media sites will be required to stop internet scams in new online safety bill | #socialmedia


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Social media websites and search engines will have a “duty of care” to protect users from internet scams, the government has said.

The current draft of the Online Safety Bill makes it a legal requirement for platforms to protect its users from fraud committed by other users, but has now been updated to include fraudulent paid-for adverts hosted on such sites.

It comes after campaigners called on the government to strengthen the bill in relation to scam adverts.

Consumer champion and the founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, Martin Lewis, one of the most prominent campaigners for the cause, previously said he was “desperate” for such scams to be brought into the scope of the bill and argued that the scams “don’t just steal people’s money, they can take their self-respect too”.

The government said the new legal duty to prevent the publication or hosting of scam adverts would better protect people from scams where criminals impersonate celebrities or companies to steal personal data, peddle unsafe financial investments or break into bank accounts.

Platforms will be required to put in place systems and processes to avoid publishing fraudulent adverts and remove it when they are made aware of it.

The government announced it was also launching a consultation on proposals to tighten the rules more generally for the online advertising industry by boosting regulation and toughening sanctions.

Social media influencers who fail to properly declare when they are being paid to promote products could face stronger penalties as part of any new changes, it added.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries said: “We want to protect people from online scams and have heard the calls to strengthen our new internet safety laws.

“These changes to the upcoming Online Safety bill will help stop fraudsters conning people out of their hard-earned cash using fake online adverts.

“As technology revolutionises more and more of our lives the law must keep up,” she added.

“Today we are also announcing a review of the wider rules around online advertising to make sure industry practices are accountable, transparent and ethical – so people can trust what they see advertised and know fact from fiction.”

In response to the new plans, Lewis, said: “I am thankful the government has listened to me and the huge numbers of other campaigners – across banks, insurers, consumer groups, charities, police and regulators – who’ve been desperate to ensure scam adverts are covered by the Online Safety Bill.

“We are amidst an epidemic of scam adverts. Scams don’t just destroy people’s finances – they hit their self-esteem, mental health and even leave some considering taking their own lives.”

He continued: “The government now accepting the principle that scam adverts need to be included, and that firms who are paid to publish adverts need to be responsible for them, is a crucial first step.

“Until now, only user-generated scams were covered – which risked pushing more scam ads, incentivising criminals to shift strategy.

“Yet the Bill is complex. We need to analyse and scrutinise this update – one of my concerns is it looks like display advertising that you see on third party websites is not within the scope of the Bill when it comes to scam adverts.

“But overall, the big picture is that this is good news and we need to work with Government, Parliament and all the other campaigners and experts to close down the hiding places or gaps scammers can exploit.”

Additional reporting by PA



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