Online Safety Bill not suitable for fraud, Google and Facebook suggest

22 September 2021, 20:14

Laptop
Online Safety Bill. Picture: PA

Campaigners believe scams should be included in the Online Safety Bill.

Google and Facebook have suggested fraud does not fit within the Online Safety Bill despite calls for it to be included.

The Bill focuses on user-generated content such as child sex exploitation and terrorism, but campaigners, including consumer champion Martin Lewis, have argued scams should fall within its remit.

Asked whether they would welcome fraud being covered by the new regulation, Google and Facebook told MPs they think it would be a “challenge” to make it work.

“In terms of the Online Safety Bill itself, it’s designed for user-generated content and when you look at the sort of traits of user-generated content versus scams, they are quite different,” Amanda Storey, director of trust and safety at Google said to the Treasury Committee.

“The techniques for user-generated content and scams are quite different, I think that therefore the Online Safety Bill is not necessarily targeted in the way it would need to be to be efficient at tackling online scams, so I do think that needs to be considered.”

She added: “We haven’t waited for regulation, we’ve done everything that we can do to make sure scams are not appearing to users.”

Allison Lucas, content policy director at Facebook, also voiced her concern, saying: “I think that Ofcom would have to grapple with a lot of these issues and it would be a challenge to include fraud within this Bill.

“The user journey touches a number of touchpoints both online and offline before the fraud even takes place and so including it with this Bill comes with a lot of different challenges.”

Mr Lewis recently renewed calls for fraud to be covered by the Bill, telling new Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries that the omission is “catastrophic to million’s wealth and mental health”.

“May I plead with you to include scam adverts in the Online Safety Bill alongside scam user content,” he tweeted.

“The distinction is arbitrary and impractical.”

Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at consumer group Which?, said tech giants “simply aren’t doing enough to protect consumers from being scammed online”, after watching the hearing.

“The financial and emotional toll on victims targeted with fake and fraudulent adverts can be devastating, and yet we did not hear anything in this evidence session to suggest that these platforms will make any serious changes to crack down on criminals exploiting their systems anytime soon,” she said.

“The Government cannot delay taking action any longer. The draft Online Safety Bill must be amended so that major tech platforms are required to prevent fraudulent paid-for adverts from appearing on their sites.”

By Press Association

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