Search engines may face fines for scam adverts

Posted on May 11, 2021

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce plans for a new Online Safety Bill, which will regulate the internet, during the Queen’s Speech later today.

This new legislation will put a legal responsibility on tech companies for the safety of their users online. If these companies fail to uphold a duty of care towards their users, they face incurring fines of £18 million – or 10% of their global turnover – from Ofcom, which will become the sector’s regulator.

However, campaigners like MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis have voiced concerns that this new bill will be a failure if it doesn’t protect internet users from online scams, and it has been reported that government ministers have been receptive to this, so the legislation could be changed to encompass scams.

What would be the impact of this?

Fraud is a particularly prevalent problem here in the UK, and it costs the economy around £190bn each year. Regarding online scams, the elderly are particularly prone to falling victim when it comes to pensions, with internet scammers coaxing them into cashing in their pensions. Since 2015, it’s estimated that around £10bn has been lost to this type of scam, with 40,000 people being affected.

According to Business Matters, the Work and Pensions Committee has called it “immoral” that companies like Google are making money from scam adverts. When it comes to the search giant and its share in keyword advertising – otherwise known as pay-per-click or PPC – Google has approximately a 90% share in the market here in the UK.

Not only do companies like Google profit off the back of the scam adverts themselves, but they also gain from adverts from regulations warning internet users of the said scams too.

Speaking to Business Matters, the Chief Executive of Which?, Anabel Hoult, commented that big online platforms are failing to use their sophisticated technologies to protect people from online scams. She added that:

“The time for self-regulation is over, as clearly it has not worked. The case for including scams in the Online Safety Bill is overwhelming and the government must take the opportunity to act now. Online platforms must be given a legal responsibility to prevent, identify and remove fake and fraudulent content on their sites so that their users are better protected.”

The need for online scams to be incorporated into the new bill is emphasised by figures from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which, during the past year, has removed more scams than in the three previous years combined, with the number of campaigns having been taken down totalling 700,500. In addition, over 286,000 fraudulent businesses were taken down.

If scams are incorporated into the bill, it will provide genuine, ethical companies with more opportunities to gain visibility, and may well save them money with PPC campaigns, as they will have fewer competitors for keywords. If you’d like to talk about investing in a PPC campaign for your business, reach out to our team at Engage Web today.

Digital Marketing Executive at Engage Web
Emily is no stranger to the world of online content. By the age of just 14, a novel she wrote on the story-writing website Wattpad had amassed more than a million views!
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