Austen Shakespeare

Social media companies urged to remove scammers from their platforms

Social media sites and search engines will be forced to stamp out fraudsters on their platforms as the government strengthens its internet safety laws.

The move comes as the government also launches a consultation as part of a wider overhaul of how online advertising is regulated in the UK, including proposals to improve transparency and accountability and tackle harmful, fraudulent and misleading adverts.

Together the measures aim to boost people’s trust and confidence in being online by making sure the UK’s rules and regulations keep pace with rapid advances in technology.

A new legal duty will be added to the Online Safety Bill requiring the largest and most popular social media platforms and search engines to prevent paid-for fraudulent adverts appearing on their services.

The change will improve protections for internet users from the potentially devastating impact of fake ads, including where criminals impersonate celebrities or companies to steal people’s personal data, peddle dodgy financial investments or break into bank accounts.

Separately, the government is launching a consultation on proposals to tighten the rules for the online advertising industry. This would bring more of the major players involved under regulation and create a more transparent, accountable and safer ad market.

Harmful or misleading adverts, such as those promoting negative body images, and adverts for illegal activities such as weapons sales, could be subject to tougher rules and sanctions. Influencers failing to declare they are being paid to promote products on social media could also be subject to stronger penalties.

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. 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.”

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