Critics slam ‘toothless and confusing’ online harms law

Parliament_11The Government’s Online Safty Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, has already come under fire, amid claims it will not go far enough to protect the public and that the language used is far too wishy-washy.

Hailed as the legislation that will finally bring tech giants to heel, and according to ministers, “lead the way in ensuring Internet safety for all’, the bill was slammed even before it was announced, with critics claiming it will do nothing to to protect people from scam and fraudulent ads.

MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis has been typically scathing. He fumed: “The Queen read that ‘My government will lead the way in providing internet safety for all, especially children’. Yet the Government has stumbled at the first fence, by not including scams in the Online Safety Bill.

“We live in a world where the policing of scams is dangerously underfunded, leaving criminals to get away with fraud with impunity. This was a chance to at least deny them the ‘oxygen of publicity’ by making big tech responsible for the scammers adverts it is paid to publish.

“By not doing so the Government has failed to protect millions, in the midst of a pandemic, from one of the most damaging online harms to their financial and mental health. My slim hope is, as prior reports hinted, the door is ajar for scams to be added to the bill at the committee stage. And we will continue to expose this gap, and push ministers to put in place proper consumer protections against scams.”

Which? chief executive Anabel Hoult added: “The current approach of self-regulation is not fit for purpose. The case for including scams in the Online Safety Bill is overwhelming, with industry, regulators and consumer groups all calling for urgent action to tackle online scams and for platforms to better protect their users from fraudsters.”

Meanwhile, Mishcon de Reya senior data protection specialist Jon Baines sees even more trouble ahead. He commented: “Lawyers will of course be reading the bill very closely, but everyone who publishes or even simply posts content online should also read it.

“The advance information suggests there may be a huge amount of uncertainty created, not least around subjects such as what ‘harm’ consists of (when it doesn’t meet the threshold of criminality), what ‘democratically important’ means, who will be subject to the law and what role Ofcom will have in handling complaints and issuing sanctions.”

Related stories
New online safety law to put tech giants into the dock
Investment ads featuring Branson and Lewis ‘all fake’
Facebook and Google ‘dawdle in dealing with scam ads’
Tech giants too slow to act as scammers ‘run riot’ online
Covid fuels fresh barrage of nuisance marketing calls
Online gangs look to ‘silent stealing’ to avoid detection

Print Friendly