What are the new changes to the Online Safety Bill? | #socialmedia | #education | #technology | #infosec

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Online Safety Bill changes have been suggested to combat the growing threat of scam advertising and fraud online.

The Online Safety Bill changes will include wider reform of online advertising regulations, and greater powers for regulators to tackle harmful, offensive, and misleading adverts.

The UK Government is looking to clamp down on fraud and told influencers that failing to declare payments on product promotions could bring tougher penalties than before.

Additionally, the government announced a new legal duty will be added requiring social media sites and search engines, such as Facebook and Google, to do more to combat fraud and scams on their platforms.

The government has launched a consultation as part of a wider overhaul of how online advertising is regulated in the UK. This includes proposals to improve transparency and accountability and tackle harmful, fraudulent, and misleading adverts.

Adverts such as those promoting negative body images, and illegal activities such as weapons sales, could be subject to tougher rules and sanctions.

Changes aim to improve protections for internet users from the “potentially devastating impact” of fake ads, the government said, including where criminals impersonate celebrities or companies to “steal people’s personal data, peddle dodgy financial investments or break into bank accounts”.

Measures are intended to boost peoples trust and confidence with regards to being online while ensuring the UK’s rules and regulations keep pace with rapid advances in technology.

Commenting on the new rules, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “We want to protect people from online scams and have heard the calls to strengthen our new internet safety laws.

“These changes to the upcoming Online Safety bill will help stop fraudsters conning people out of their hard-earned cash using fake online adverts.

“As technology revolutionises more and more of our lives the law must keep up. Today we are also announcing a review of the wider rules around online advertising to make sure industry practices are accountable, transparent, and ethical – so people can trust what they see advertised and know fact from fiction.”


A shifting online landscape

The moves have been hailed by campaigner groups, including Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute,

Lewis commented: “I am thankful the Government has listened to me and the huge numbers of other campaigners – across banks, insurers, consumer groups, charities, police, and regulators – who’ve been desperate to ensure scam adverts are covered by the Online Safety Bill.

“We are amidst an epidemic of scam adverts. Scams don’t just destroy people’s finances – they hit their self-esteem, mental health and even leave some considering taking their own lives.

“The Government now accepting the principle that scam adverts need to be included, and that firms who are paid to publish adverts need to be responsible for them, is a crucial first step.”

Up until now, only user-generated scams were covered in the Bill which risked pushing more scam advertising online and “incentivising criminals to shift strategy”, Lewis said.

“Now we and others need to analyse all elements of this new part of the Bill, and work with Government and Parliament to close down the hiding places or gaps scammers can exploit,” he added.


Fighting the problem of scam ads and online fraud.

According to a survey of 2,000 social media and search engine users carried out by Which? in 2020, around 3.8 million online users may have lost money to a scam advert that appeared in their social media feed.

Scam adverts on the biggest online platforms have tricked almost one in ten people into paying out for sham purchases, Which? found.

Which? also discovered scams hidden behind ‘sponsored’ ads appearing across the internet, with links impersonating news articles containing scams and fake news.

Combating such scams will be a big challenge for social media firms and search engines, which provide platforms that rely heavily of advertising for profit.


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However, the bill as an “important milestone” and it will play a critical role in protecting internet users against online scams, said Rachel Jones, CEO and founder of SnapDragon Monitoring.

“Social media has provided fraudsters with a cost-effective way to scale their efforts and victims are getting hurt every day, with the consequences going much further than just the loss of funds. The scams cause emotional damage and can seriously impact people’s confidence, so any move to reduce this threat is positive,” Jones continued.

“The new legislation will make it harder for scammers to trick people into visiting fraudulent websites, conning them out of money, or purchasing goods, which are being touted as genuine, but are actually fake. Counterfeits are a huge business today and scammers use social media as a cheap, but effective method, to advertise their products.

“However, these products rarely go through safety tests and often contain hazardous materials that can seriously impact health and safety.”

She added: “This is another important issue the new bill will tackle, while providing consumers and brands with welcome new protections against the threat.”


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