Consumer rights group Which? has accused tech giants Google and Facebook of failing to protect users from online scams.
In a survey of scam victims, Which? Found that a third of scam victims who reported ads that duped them to Google said the platform failed to remove the adverts.
Meanwhile, a quarter of those who reported the ads which scammed them to Facebook said the social media site did not remove them.
The findings prompted Which? to brand the platform's reactive anti-fraud policies as 'not fit for purpose' and called for the companies to be given legal duties to prevent users from being defrauded.
Our latest research has exposed significant flaws with the reactive approach taken by tech giants including Google and Facebook in response to the reporting of fraudulent content – leaving victims worryingly exposed to scams," said Adam French, Consumer Rights Expert at Which?
Online platforms must be given a legal responsibility to identify, remove and prevent fake and fraudulent content on their sites. The case for including scams in the Online Safety Bill is overwhelming, and the government needs to act now.
The Online Safety Bill is set to come into force later this year and will give communications regulator Ofcom the power to fine social media sites up to 10% of their annual turnover for failing to remove harmful or illegal content such as violent content or sexual exploitation.
The bill does not specifically cover material such as fraudulent adverts or scam websites.
Which? 's research found that nearly 1 in 10 social media users in the UK had been scammed into buying a sham product online- totalling some 3.8 million people.
Despite this, only two in five users bother to report fraud to online platforms. The most common reason for Facebook users not reporting fraudulent adverts was thinking the platform wouldn't do anything about it.
On Google, the leading reason for users not to report fake ads was that they didn't know how to lodge a complaint.
In response to Which?, a Google spokesperson pointed out that the platform blocked more than 3.1 billion ads over the course of 2020. This number includes adverts that Google identified as in breach of their policies and those that users flagged up.
As part of the various ways we are tackling bad ads, we also encourage people to flag bad actors, they're seeing via our support tool where you can report bad ads directly. It can easily be found on Search when looking for "How to report bad ads on Google" and filling out the necessary information", said a spokesperson for the tech giant.
Last year Google stepped up its identification process for businesses advertising through the site, which reportedly resulted in an additional 968 million fake advertisers being filtered out of the service.
Despite these changes, users reported to Which? Seeing scam ads re-appear after being taken down, as fraudsters slipped through the net by changing their business name.
Which? Called on social media users to sign up to its scam alert service, 'to help consumers familiarise themselves with the latest tactics used by fraudsters, but urged regulators to step in and do more to prevent scammers preying on social media users.
In 2020, Google's ad revenue amounted to £105.63 billion (USD 146.92 billion), while almost 98% of Facebook's global revenue is thought to be generated by advertising, at £61.83 billion (USD 86 billion).
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