What the UK’s online safety bill means for consumers


The Online Safety Bill aims to improve internet safety in the UK. Photo: Getty

Calls to include paid advertising in the online security bill to help tackle social media and search engine fraud as an “epidemic of scams” grips Britain.

New search for Which? revealed that UK consumers believe that social media platforms and search engines do not sufficiently protect them from scams.

The consumer group along with MPs, consumer businesses and digital scam victims and businesses have urged Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries and the government to include paid advertising in the bill.

As the number of users unhappy with the protection against scams provided by social media platforms and search engines grows, what will the bill mean for UK consumers?

What is paid advertising?

Paid advertising is a type of online advertising model that allows advertisers to participate in real-time auctions to serve their advertisements in time slots on specific networks and platforms.

Some examples of the model include social media ads, influencer marketing, pay per click, retargeting ads, and banner ads.

Read more: Innocent TV ads banned due to ‘misleading’ environmental claims

In February of last year, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned influencers from using “misleading” beauty filters in paid beauty ads.

A Meta spokesperson said they are “devoting significant resources to addressing this industry-wide issue” on and off its platforms.

“To combat this, we are working not only to detect and reject fraudulent advertisements on our services, but also to block advertisers and, in some cases, bring them to justice,” the spokesperson added. “While no app is perfect, we continue to invest in new technologies and methods to protect people on our service from these scams.”

They added that Meta had donated £3 billion ($4 billion) to Citizens Advice to set up an anti-scam action program in the UK to raise awareness of online scams and help the victims.

In this photo illustration the Facebook and Instagram logos are displayed on a smartphone with the Meta Platforms logo in the background.  (Photo by Igor Golovniov / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

In this photo illustration the Facebook and Instagram logos are displayed on a smartphone with the Meta Platforms logo in the background. (Photo by Igor Golovniov / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

What does this mean for UK consumers?

The appeals would potentially mean social media sites such as Facebook owner Meta (Facebook), Instagram and Twitter (TWTR) should take a more active role in monitoring harmful or misleading content.

Which? figures show that 43% of consumers are dissatisfied with the protection against scams provided by social media platforms and search engines, more than double (20%) the number who feel protected.

This was higher than levels of dissatisfaction with scam protection offered by government (39%), email providers (33%), telecom companies (31%) and marketplaces online (29%).

An estimated 9 million people (17%) have been targeted by a social media scam, according to the survey.

Of the 2,000 people surveyed, 79% said they had seen or been the target of a scam, underscoring the extent to which fraudsters have been operating with impunity since the coronavirus pandemic.

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that fraud has increased by 36% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

A victim who told which one? she was tricked by an advert she saw posted by a third party on Facebook, containing fabricated quotes from Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden, lost over £30,000 in a potential cryptocurrency scam in 2020.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) does not regulate cryptocurrencies.

Watch: How do influencers make money on Instagram?

What is the Online Security Bill?

The Online Safety Bill is a private member’s bill of Parliament to improve internet safety in the UK.

The government is expected to publish the bill in the coming weeks. Offenses on the list include child sexual abuse and terrorism.

Dorries announced earlier this month that additional priority illegal offenses to be placed on the bill will include promoting or facilitating suicide, human trafficking and sexual exploitation, revenge pornography, hate crimes, fraud and the sale of illegal drugs or weapons.

Tech companies were previously forced to remove this content after it was reported to them by users, but they need to be proactive now and prevent people from being exposed in the first place.

Communications regulator Ofcom will have the power to impose fines of up to 10% of annual global turnover on non-compliant companies or prevent them from being accessible in the UK.

Three new criminal offenses will also be added to the bill to ensure that the criminal law is fit for the internet age.

Rocio Concha, which one? director of policy and advocacy, said: “It’s no surprise that consumers don’t feel adequately protected by social media sites and search engines. These companies have some of the most sophisticated technology in the world. world, yet they don’t do enough to protect their users from online scams on their sites.

“The Government must include paid advertising in the Online Safety Bill so that consumers finally get the protection they need from fraudsters who will stop at nothing to target potential victims online.

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