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Online scam ads to be tackled with new proposal


Online scam ads to be tackled with new proposal

As part of a newly updated plan, search engines like Google and social media sites like Facebook could soon have to prevent paid scam ads from showing on their platforms – by law.

This proposal forms part of the Online Safety Bill, a piece of legislation aiming to address the way in which websites tackle harmful content. According to the BBC, groups campaigning for the bill have stated that being a victim of a scam can cause devastation both emotionally and financially. With the bill, people should have better protection from scams that see celebrities impersonated, personal data stolen, risky financial investments peddled and bank accounts being broken into.

To combat these scams, as part of the bill, platforms will have a legal requirement to establish processes that will block scam ads from showing up online, and, if they slip through the cracks, to remove them.

Nadine Dorries, the UK government’s Culture Secretary, told the BBC:

“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.”

The news has been welcomed by both Which? and Moneysavingexpert.com founder Martin Lewis, both of whom had campaigned for the inclusion of scams in the bill. Lewis even lodged a case against Facebook in 2018 for allowing adverts giving the impression that he endorsed certain products – this was settled in 2019 when Facebook agreed to donate £3m to charity.

As well as this, a consultation is being launched by the UK government to look into the regulation of online advertising. By law, influencers on social media sites must declare when a post is sponsored, with many choosing to use hashtags such as #ad, #paidpartnership and #spon to declare this. However, studies have shown that several influencers on Instagram do not follow the rules. The government consultation could see these individuals faced with harsher penalties when they step out of line.

In addition, ads that are considered misleading or harmful – one example being an ad promoting a harmful body image – could also have to answer to stricter rules, but the specifics of how this would work has not yet been decided.

Ofcom is set to release more information on what platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Google must do to uphold their new legal duties. One way this could be enforced is by checking the ID of those publishing ads.

Businesses should keep up to date with updates to legislation like this, which will affect advertising online and any paid partnership or sponsored posts. If you need help navigating the digital world for your business, we’re here to help at Engage Web – just get in touch.

Emily Jones
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