Google and Facebook failing to remove online scam ads

Tech giants Google and Facebook are failing to take action to get rid of online scam adverts, even after fraud victims report them, according to research from Which?.

The findings have raised concerns that the reactive approach to fraudulent content taken by online platforms is “not fit for purpose.”

The consumer watchdog found that 34 per cent of victims who reported an advert that led to a scam on Google said the advert was not taken down by the search engine, while a quarter (26 per cent) of victims who reported an advert on Facebook that resulted in them being scammed said the advert was not removed by the social media site.

Which? said that the “significant flaws” in existing reactive approaches make a clear case for online platforms to be given legal responsibility for preventing fake and fraudulent adverts from appearing on their sites.

It has called for the government to include content that leads to online scams in the scope of its proposed Online Safety Bill.

The research also found that of respondents that had fallen victim to a scam as a result of an advert on a search engine or social media, 27 per cent had fallen for a fraudulent advert they saw on Facebook and one in five said a scam targeted them through Google adverts.

Three per cent said they’d been tricked by an advert on Twitter.

43 per cent of scam victims conned by an advert they saw online, via a search engine or social media ad, said they did not report the scam to the platform hosting it.

The biggest reason for not reporting adverts that caused a scam to Facebook was that victims didn’t think the platform would do anything about it or take it down – this was the response from 31 per cent of victims.

“Our latest research has exposed significant flaws with the reactive approach taken by tech giants including Google and Facebook in response to the reporting of fraudulent content – leaving victims worryingly exposed to scams,” said Adam French, consumer rights expert, Which?. “Which? has launched a free scam alert service to help consumers familiarise themselves with the latest tactics used by fraudsters, but there is no doubt that tech giants, regulators and the government need to go to greater lengths to prevent scams from flourishing.”

French said that online platforms must be given a legal responsibility to identify, remove and prevent fake and fraudulent content on their sites.

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