MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis has joined growing calls for the Government to start “pointing the finger” at social media firms and online ad companies, amid claims that consumers are simply not protected because these firms are regulated as platforms rather than publishers.
His demands follow the launch of a new Facebook scam reporting feature which, it claims, will make it much easier for users to report rogue ads appearing on the site.
The scheme is just one of the measures which Facebook had promised to introduce after it secured an out of court settlement with Lewis, who was suing the company for defamation. Lewis dropped the case in January after Facebook vowed to introduce scam reporting as well as donate £3m to a new Citizens Advice project.
Under the programme, launching today, a dedicated online scams service from Citizens Advice, called Scams Action, will give one-to-one support to those who are worried they have been scammed.
The Facebook scheme, which was supposed to launch in May, can be activated by clicking the three dots in the top right corner of every ad on Facebook, pressing “report ad”, then choosing “misleading or scam ad” and then “send a detailed scam report”.
When a user does this, it will trigger an alert that will then be sent to a new internal operations team who will handle these reports, review and take down violating ads.
Facebook claims that team will also investigate trends to help enforcement and drive improvements. The tool and dedicated team are unique to the UK, as a result of the lawsuit.
When asked by BBC Breakfast why the ads were still on the site and people were being defrauded every day, Facebook vice-president for Northern Europe Steve Hatch said: “We will never give up, if we think there are more things that we can do. The reason we will never give up is that these fraudsters and criminals never give up either.”
He also pointed out that Facebook has tripled the size of its safety and security team to 30,000 people, including moderators in its European centre in Barcelona.
While welcoming the initiative, Lewis said: “Until we have Government taking responsibility and starting to point the finger and give real laws on the social media companies and the online advertising giants, we are still unprotected.
“It shouldn’t have taken me to sue Facebook to get the actions we are having today. Someone in power, in politics, should have been doing this far before that.”
Facebook claims it removed 1.8 billion pieces of scam content globally in the first three months of this year. Last year, Google took down 2.3 billion ads that violated its advertising policies, equivalent to more than 6 million “bad ads” removed every day.
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