United Kingdom

Following appeals from regulators and consumer organizations for a tougher crackdown on scams, the United Kingdom announced on Tuesday that it would force Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other online platforms to prevent paid-for bogus advertisements.

The government said the draft law on combating internet harms would force huge platforms to tighten their protection against criminals impersonating celebrities or corporations in order to steal personal data, peddle risky financial investments, or breach into bank accounts.

Ofcom, the communications regulator, will look into whether platforms have put in place procedures to detect and delete bogus ads. According to the government, the watchdog might halt services or levy a punishment of up to 18 million pounds ($24 million) or 10% of annual turnover.

“These amendments to the impending Online Safety bill will assist in preventing fraudsters from defrauding individuals via phoney online advertisements,” Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said in a statement.

As more people went online during lockdowns to battle COVID-19, online scams from adverts on Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms exploded.

According to data from UK Finance, a banking industry organisation, a British record of 754 million pounds was taken in banking scams in the first six months of 2021, up nearly a third from the same time in 2020.

Some internet platforms are limiting financial product advertisements to organisations authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which has sought for stronger powers, in response to pressure from the FCA.

“This might make a major difference in slowing the stream of bogus and fraudulent adverts that bring severe financial and emotional harm to innocent victims on social media and search engines,” said Anabel Hoult, chief executive of consumer campaign group Which?

The government also announced that it would hold a public consultation on tightening laws for the online advertising business, either by enhancing present self-regulation or by establishing a new body.

It stated that harmful or misleading advertisements, such as those promoting poor body images, as well as advertisements for illicit operations such as weapons sales, may face stricter laws and sanctions.

Influencers who fail to disclose that they are paid to promote products on social media might face harsher penalties, according to the government.