Social media sites and search engines will be forced to weed out fraudsters and scammers on their platforms as the government tightens its pioneering internet safety laws.
The move comes as the government also launches a consultation as part of a wider overhaul of online advertising regulation in the UK, including proposals to improve transparency and accountability and tackle bullying. harmful, fraudulent and misleading advertisements.
Together, the measures aim to boost people’s confidence in their online connection by ensuring that UK rules and regulations keep pace with rapid advances in technology.
A new legal obligation will be added to the Online Safety Bill requiring the largest and most popular social media platforms and search engines to prevent paid fraudulent advertisements from appearing on their services.
The change will improve the protection of internet users from the potentially devastating impact of fake advertising, including when criminals impersonate celebrities or companies to steal people’s personal data, peddle questionable financial investments or break into bank accounts. .
In addition, the government is launching a consultation on proposals aimed at strengthening the rules of the online advertising industry. This would regulate more of the major players involved and create a more transparent, accountable and safer advertising market.
Harmful or misleading advertisements, such as those promoting negative body images, and advertisements for illegal activities such as the sale of weapons, may be subject to stricter rules and penalties. Influencers who don’t say they get paid to promote products on social media could also face stiffer penalties.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said:
We want to protect people from online scams and have heard calls to strengthen our new internet safety laws. These changes in the upcoming online safety bill will help prevent scammers from scamming people out of their hard-earned money by using fake online advertisements.
As technology increasingly revolutionizes our lives, the law must keep pace. Today we’re also announcing a review of broader rules around online advertising to ensure industry practices are accountable, transparent and ethical – so people can trust what they see advertising and distinguishing fact from fiction.”
Security Minister Damian Hinds:
Crimes like romance and investment fraud leave lifelong scars on their victims and can completely destroy their finances and ability to trust. Organized crime groups have discovered new ways to take full advantage of people, using increasingly sophisticated methods that would deceive even the most scrupulous individuals.
We know these crimes are on the rise and as we all spend more time online, criminals are spotting their opportunities to abuse people’s trust and deceive them more and more.
The changes we are announcing today mean that online and social media companies will need to recognize these issues and take strong action to combat the scourge of online fraud, and take greater responsibility for protecting their users from this crime. very dangerous. Innocent victims should not be exploited and defrauded online by fraudsters.”
Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, whose face is one of the most used by scammers in the UK, said:
I am grateful that the government listened to me and the large number of other activists – among banks, insurers, consumer groups, charities, police and regulators – who desperately ensured that Fraudulent advertisements are covered by the Online Safety Bill. We are in the midst of an epidemic of fraudulent advertisements. Scams don’t just destroy people’s finances – they affect their self-esteem, their mental health, and even cause some to consider suicide.
The fact that the government now accepts the principle that fraudulent advertisements must be included and that companies that are paid to publish advertisements must be responsible for them is a crucial first step. Until now, only user-generated scams were covered – which risked pushing more fraudulent ads, causing criminals to change their strategy. It is, however, a complex area. Now we and others need to analyze all the elements of this new part of the bill and work with the government and parliament to close any hiding places or loopholes that crooks can exploit.”
Mark Steward, Executive Director of Market Enforcement and Surveillance, Financial Conduct Authority, said:
We welcome that the online security bill now obliges the biggest platforms to fight against fraudulent advertising. We have been clear on the need for legislation and appreciate the government’s positive engagement in this regard. We look forward to working closely with government and regulatory partners as they finalize and implement the details of the bill. »
Draft law on online security – obligation of fraudulent advertising
Under the current Online Safety Bill, search engines and platforms that host user-generated content, video sharing or live streaming will have a duty to protect users of their services. against fraud committed by other users. This includes catfishing romance scams and fake stock tips – posted by people in pictures, comments or videos.
Today, the government is adding a new obligation to the bill that will expand fraudulent paid advertising on social media and search engines, whether controlled by the platform itself or by an advertising intermediary.
These companies will need to put in place proportionate systems and processes to prevent (or minimize in the case of search engines) the publication and/or hosting of fraudulent advertisements on their service and remove them when they become aware of them.
This will mean businesses will have to crack down on advertisements with unlicensed financial promotions, fraudsters posing as legitimate businesses, and advertisements for fake businesses. This includes social media posts “boosted” by users that they pay to have wider promotion.
Regulator Ofcom will provide more details on what platforms will need to do to fulfill their new obligation in the codes of practice. This could include companies checking for fraudulent advertisements before they are uploaded to their systems, measures such as verifying the identity of those wishing to post advertisements and ensuring that financial promotions are only carried out by firms authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Ofcom will check whether companies have adequate measures in place to meet this obligation, but will not assess individual pieces of content, in line with the approach taken in the rest of the bill. It will have the power to hold businesses to account by blocking their services in the UK or imposing hefty fines of up to £18million or 10% of annual turnover.
Online Advertising Program (OAP)
The government is today launching a public consultation on its online advertising program (OAP).
The content and placement of online advertisements is currently overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) under a system of self-regulation. But rapid technological developments have transformed the scale and complexity of online advertising, leading to increased harm to consumers.
Advertisements seeking to defraud, such as investment scams and promotions of fraudulent products and services, including fake ticketing, which in many cases involve fake celebrity endorsements, have proliferated online.
People are also targeted by legitimate-looking advertisements containing hidden malware. When clicked, they enable hackers to carry out malicious cybersecurity attacks such as “cryptojacking” – the unauthorized use of people’s devices to mine cryptocurrency.
Elsewhere, there is evidence of online adverts selling items prohibited by UK law, such as prescription drugs and counterfeit fashion, misleading adverts misrepresenting the product or service they offer, and influencers not disclosing not sponsorship deals with companies in their publications.
The program will examine current regulations and regulators, including whether they are properly empowered and funded. It will examine the entire supply chain and determine whether those within it should do more to combat harmful advertising, including ad-supported platforms such as Meta, Snap, Twitter and Tik Tok and intermediaries such as Google, TheTradeDesk and AppNexus.
Options include strengthening the current self-regulatory approach or creating a new statutory regulator with strong enforcement powers, including:
- Rule-making powers such as establishing mandatory codes of conduct and enforcing them with fines and the ability to block and ban advertisers who repeatedly violate the rules.
- Increased oversight of the entire supply chain related to high-risk advertising such as the promotion of alcohol-related or weight loss products. Companies could be required to demonstrate that they take care to protect users – for example by avoiding targeting vulnerable groups.
- Increased scrutiny of advertisers who repeatedly violate codes of conduct and increased scrutiny of companies and individuals who place advertisements and purchase advertising space. This could include requiring intermediaries or third-party platforms to require advertisers to self-declare their interest in placing high-risk advertisements such as age-restricted advertisements.
- Information-gathering and investigative powers such as the power to audit and request transparency reports from companies and request data from them.