Social media platforms and search engines must be forced to crack down on fraudulent ads, the government says.
The duty will be included in an updated version of the Online Safety Bill which Sky News says could arrive as early as next week.
It follows criticism of a previous bill that covered harmful user-generated posts, but not harmful ads and promotions.
New online advertising program
Alongside the announcement of the amendment to the Online Safety Bill, the government has launched a consultation on the rules applicable to the online advertising industry.
According to the government, existing regulations have been unable to keep up with “rapid technological developments” in the industry, “leading to increased harm to consumers”.
This could result in a new online advertising regulator with the ability to block and ban advertisers who repeatedly break the rules.
Do not fight against fraudulent advertisements
Legally, the changes will require companies “to put in place proportionate systems and processes to prevent (or minimize in the case of search engines) the publication and/or hosting of fraudulent advertisements on their service” and to be able to remove advertisements when informed.
The government will leave it to online security regulator Ofcom to decide whether systems and processes are proportionate.
The update follows a Treasury committee report accusing the government of do not face an alarming growth in fraud Across the country.
MEPs have suggested that online businesses including Meta and Google should compensate people who have been duped by scams advertised through their platforms.
Instead of paying compensation, however, MPs noted that companies received additional advertising funds from the public purse to warn of such scams.
The Financial Conduct Authority paid more than £1.1m to companies including Google, Twitter, TikTok and Meta to run anti-scam ads between 2019 and 2021.
Google has since offered the regulator $3m (£2.2m) in free advertising credits in a move that MPs say should be copied by other platforms.
Martin Lewis, the founder of MoneySavingExpert, previously settled a lawsuit against Facebook for having distributed fraudulent advertisements in his name and image.
He said he was grateful that the government “listened to me and the large number of other campaigners…who desperately ensured that fraudulent advertisements were covered by the online safety bill”. .
“Now we and others need to analyze all the elements of this new part of the bill and work with the government and parliament to close any hiding places or loopholes that crooks can exploit,” he added.
Protect the industry
The UK is Europe’s largest market for advertising and the world’s fourth largest in terms of ad spend – with total industry revenue in 2019 reaching around £40bn.
But it has been “easy for fraudsters” to place malicious ads online because tech companies have not been legally required to check advertisers’ backgrounds, MPs have said.
Alongside the announcement, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “We want to protect people from online scams and have heard calls to strengthen our new internet safety laws.
“These changes to the upcoming Online Safety Bill will help prevent fraudsters from scamming people out of their hard-earned money using fake online advertisements.
“As technology increasingly revolutionizes our lives, the law must keep pace,” Ms Dorries added.
“Today we are also announcing a review of broader rules around online advertising to ensure industry practices are accountable, transparent and ethical – so people can trust what they see being done. advertising and distinguishing fact from fiction.”