The UK said on Tuesday it would force Google, Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms to block fraudulent advertisements following calls from regulators and consumer groups for a strong crackdown on scams.
The government has said its draft law would include the need for a larger platform to prevent online losses, to improve protection against criminals for stealing personal information of celebrity or company in disguise, making unsecured financial investments or breaking into bank accounts.
Communications regulator Ofcom will check to see if the platforms have installed systems to prevent and remove counterfeit ads. Watchdog could block services or impose a fine of up to GBP 18 million (approximately Rs 181.38 crore) or 10 percent of annual turnover, the government said.
“These changes to the upcoming online security bill will help prevent fraudsters from using fake online advertising to steal people’s hard-earned cash,” Culture Secretary Nadine Doris said in a statement.
Online scams from Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media ads have increased as more people went online to fight COVID-19 during the lockdown.
In the first six months of 2021, a British record of GBP 754 million (approximately Rs 7597.689 crore) was stolen in a banking scandal, which is almost one third more than the same period in 2020, according to UK Finance, a banking industry firm.
In response to pressure from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), some online services are restricting advertising of financial products to FCA-controlled companies, which calls for stronger powers.
“This could make a huge difference in stopping the tide of fake and deceptive advertising on social media and search engines, causing devastating financial and psychological damage to innocent victims,” said Annabel Holt, chief executive of Consumer Campaign Group.
The government says it is launching a public consultation to tighten rules for the online advertising industry by strengthening existing self-regulation practices or creating a new watchdog.
Harmful or misleading advertising, such as promoting negative body images, and advertising illegal activities such as the sale of weapons can lead to stricter rules and restrictions, it says.
If influential people fail to declare they are being paid to promote the product on social media there could also be a subject of more severe punishment, the government said.
Thomson Reuters 2022