UK lawmakers call for tougher crackdown on online crooks and cyberflash


A man is typing on a computer keyboard in this illustrative photo taken on February 28, 2013. REUTERS / Kacper Pempel / File Photo

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LONDON, December 14 (Reuters) – Google, Facebook and other online services should be held legally responsible for advertisements on their platforms to prevent fraudsters from defrauding millions of consumers, a multi-stakeholder group of UK lawmakers has said .

Britain has proposed a landmark online safety law to punish abuses such as child pornography, racism and violence against women, but a joint committee of lawmakers from both houses of parliament said on Tuesday that it should go further to cover paid advertising.

“Excluding paid advertising will leave service providers with little incentive to remove harmful advertising and may encourage a further proliferation of such content,” the joint committee report said.

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The Financial Conduct Authority also wants social media and search engine ads, currently excluded from the bill, to be included after £ 754million ($ 999.65million) has been stolen of consumers in the first six months of this year.

The report also supported a recommendation from the Law Commission to make it illegal to use cyber flashes, or the unsolicited sending of obscene images or video recordings, which are often a hallmark of sexual harassment.

The bill is expected to be approved in 2022 and the government has two months to say whether it will support the recommendation, along with several others that lawmakers say are needed to “call the time on the Wild West online.”

“The era of big tech self-regulation is over. Businesses have a clear responsibility for the services they design and benefit from, and must be held accountable for the decisions they make,” said Damian Collins, who chairs the joint committee.

Britain’s communications regulator Ofcom is expected to develop mandatory codes of conduct for internet service providers, according to the report. There must, however, be “strong protections” for freedom of expression, including an automatic exemption for established news publishers, he added.

UK Financial Services Minister John Glen said last month he was “very sympathetic” to the introduction of online advertisements into the bill or similar action. Read more

The FCA has spent 600,000 pounds on Google to warn against fraudulent ads, although the online giant has since said it will only accept ads from companies regulated by the FCA and has offered a credit of 3 million dollars to the regulator.

“Without a decisive response from the government and the tech giants, many more people will unfortunately fall victim to these scammers,” said Mel Stride, chairman of the Parliament’s Treasury Committee, who backs the recommendation to help remove the scams. fraudulent online advertisements.

($ 1 = 0.7543 pounds)

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Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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