UK wants Big Tech to be held accountable for scam ads

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British lawmakers said on Wednesday that Big Tech companies whose online platforms carry fraudulent adverts should be made to compensate those who fall victim to such actions. The call is part of wider efforts to combat a growing epidemic of online fraud in Britain.

According to Mel Stride, chairman of the cross-party Treasury committee, there is not sufficient regulation governing social media and other websites where victims are often first lured in. He told Reuters that “The government should look at some kind of arrangement that makes the polluter pay.”

“Online platforms are hosting this stuff, not really putting enough effort into weeding it out, and indeed financially benefiting because they’re getting the advertising revenues,” Stride said.

The comments come as the Treasury committee published the findings on Wednesday of a report on economic crime. According to the report, trade body techUK said in December that Facebook (now known as Meta), Twitter, and Microsoft had committed to requiring that potential advertisers of financial services be authorized by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority. The commitment followed similar steps taken by Google, TikTok, and Amazon.

The report noted, however, that there was no set timeline for those changes and that other major online platforms have not followed suit.

Online fraud has risen sharply in the UK in recent years, with an upsurge during the Covid-19 pandemic. Reuters reported in October that Britain has become a global epicenter for bank scams, with a record £754 million ($1.38 billion) stolen in the first six months of last year, up 30% on the same period in 2020. British banks have signed up for a voluntary code to reimburse fraud victims who do enough to protect themselves.

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