The government has revealed new plans to tighten rules on online advertising as it drafts its Online Safety Bill.
The upcoming legislation has been updated to include a range of measures to keep people safe from fraudsters and scams. The new rules will also put greater responsibility on social media sites and search engines to take action on fraudulent activity on their platforms.
The government is also launching a consultation updates to rules surrounding online advertising and ensure regulations keep pace with advancing technology. The proposals will tighten laws on harmful or misleading adverts, such as those promoting negative body images or illegal activities. Influencers and content creators could also face tougher penalties for failing to declare when they are paid or given incentives to promote products online.
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.”
The latest updates to the Online Safety Bill have been prompted by calls from consumer finance guru Martin Lewis. The likeness of the MoneySavingExpert.com founder is one of the most used by scammers in adverts for fraudulent financial products. He said:
“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. Until now, only user-generated scams were covered – which risked pushing more scam ads, incentivising criminals to shift strategy. Yet it is a complex area. 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.”