BigTech firms pledge new action against online fraud in 'world first'

BigTech firms like Amazon and Google have pledged to take more responsibility for fraud on their platforms under a new charter launched by the UK government.

The government said that its Online Fraud Charter, which it describes as the “first of its kind in the world”, will see 11 of the world’s largest tech companies clamp down on fraud through a set of new actions.

Under the new Charter the companies, which also include eBay, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Match Group, Microsoft, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube, have pledged to verify new advertisers and "promptly" remove any fraudulent content.

Under the new measures, there will also be increased levels of verification on peer-to-peer marketplaces, while people using online dating services will have the opportunity to prove they are who they say they are.

The move has been welcomed by the banking industry, with many financial institutions in the UK having long called for companies in the tech sector to take more responsibility for the fraud taking place on their platforms.

“We’ve campaigned for years for tech companies to do far more to prevent the fraud that's become rife on social media platforms," said Paul Davis, director of fraud prevention at TSB, commenting on the news. "Now we have the Charter, it's down to all signatories to match their commitment with meaningful concerted action - putting the right protections in place to reduce fraud and take responsibility to protect millions of consumers on their platforms."

Liz Ziegler, fraud prevention director at Lloyds Banking Group said that the bank is pleased to see the UK government taking action to address the "omni-present organised crime their platforms facilitate".

She described further measures requiring the take down of suspicious profiles, greater verification of users, and more secure payment options as "steps in the right direction".

Meanwhile, Nationwide's director of economic crime Jim Winters said that enhanced controls for online and social media platforms are needed urgently.

"While it is a step in the right direction that 11 major tech companies have signed the Online Fraud Charter, it is only the starting point," he continued. "We must use this as an opportunity to drive mutual responsibility amongst all sectors in order to protect consumers."

He added that the improvement of cross-sector collaboration is necessary to achieve successful results, calling for the creation of a central hub to bring together BigTech and social media with financial services, government and law enforcement.

The government said that the Charter will also be supported by "tough action" to crack down on illegal adverts and ads for age-restricted products, such as alcohol or gambling, being seen by children. An action plan setting out steps industry and government are taking to tackle harms and increase protections for children which has been agreed by the Online Advertising Taskforce will also be published today.

“Fraud is now the most common crime in the UK, with online scammers targeting the most vulnerable in society," said prime minister Rishi Sunak. “We have already taken action to go after these unscrupulous criminals, launching our Fraud Strategy and deploying a National Fraud Squad made up of 400 dedicated officers, all backed by £400 million."

He continued: “For the first time, we are beginning to see a drop in fraud cases, but we must do more. By joining forces with these tech giants we will continue to crack down on fraudsters, making sure they have nowhere to hide online.”

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