Big tech face fines if they fail to remove scams under new “Online Safety Bill”

Social media companies and search engines face hefty fines if they fail to remove scams from their websites in new Online Safety Bill plans.

The new bill is part of a wave of new legislation aimed at regulating the internet and big tech, set to be confirmed this week by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The Online Safety Bill will make big tech responsible by law for the online safety of users on their websites and will be overseen by Ofcom.

Ofcom will have regulatory powers to fine companies £18 million, or 10 per cent of a company’s overall turnover if they fail to comply with the new laws.

Google has around a 90 per cent share of the UK market in keyword search advertisements, leaving fraudsters easy access to advertise scams through the platform.

The work and pensions committee said that it was “immoral” for big tech to profit from scammers using their platforms to post adverts.

READ MORE: In the age of online shopping, shoplifting has gone digital 

“It should not require legislative solutions to deter global firms from benefiting from the proceeds of crime but unfortunately legislation is clearly needed,” the committee told The Times.

“It is immoral that tech firms such as Google are accepting payment to advertise scams and then further payment from regulators to warn about the scam.”

With people spending more time at home during the pandemic, cyber crime has increased, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) took down more scams in the last year than in the previous three combined.

Fraudsters have taken advantage of the NHS’ vaccine programme by using it as a lure to take people’s private information.

HM Revenue and Customs branding was also commonly used by cyber criminals, followed by the Gov.uk website and TV licensing.

Which? chief executive Anabel Hoult told The Times: “The biggest online platforms have some of the most sophisticated technology in the world, yet they are failing to use it to protect scam victims who are suffering devastating financial and emotional harm due to the flood of fake and fraudulent content posted online by criminals.

“The time for self-regulation is over, as clearly it has not worked. The case for including scams in the Online Safety Bill is overwhelming and the government must take the opportunity to act now.”

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