Queen’s Speech press comment: Online Safety Bill must clamp down on harmful content to end fraud epidemic

by | May 10, 2022

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Comment from Matt Burton, chief risk officer at Quilter

“Having been introduced last year to protect people from online fraudulent investment propositions, the Online Safety Bill has been carried over to this year’s Queen’s Speech after a number of amendments.

“Reports suggest risk of a rebellion over the kinds of posts social media companies will be required to take action on, warning of censorship if there is not clarification. However it is no exaggeration to say that customers of financial services have faced a fraud epidemic, with very few protections in place to stop harmful content from appearing online and that must be clamped down on sooner rather than later.

“The pandemic worsened what was an already dire situation, as criminals targeted victims online through a variety of scams. A recent report on fraud and cybercrime based on Action Fraud data revealed that a huge £2.4 billion was stolen from Brits in 2021 – up 174% compared to 2020 – and crime reports soared from 35,739 reported cases in 2020 to 445,357 in 2021. Financial investment fraud topped the list as the most financially damaging category in 2021, with £394.1 million reported losses, while cheque, plastic card and online bank account fraud saw victims lose £204.3 million.

“For far too long the onus has been on diligent individuals and financial services providers to identify scam adverts and report them to search engines, the regulator and the police instead of the search engines undertaking basic due diligence to filter out fraudulent adverts in the first place. This Bill is the perfect opportunity to require search engines and social media platforms to remove sham investment and impersonation scams promptly from their sites, and conduct the necessary due diligence to stop them from appearing.”

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