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Google and Facebook are failing to tackle fake adverts, Which? says

Google and Facebook have been accused of failing to take action to remove online scam adverts, despite reports from fraud victims.

In a survey carried out by Which?, a third (34 per cent) of victims said that scam adverts were not taken down by Google after they reported them, while a quarter (26 per cent) of victims who reported a scam advert on Facebook also said the advert was not removed by the social media company.

The survey, which was conducted by Opinium on behalf of Which?, asked 2,000 adults about their experiences, with 298 people saying they had fallen victim to a scam ad.

Which? said that online platforms should be given legal responsibility for preventing fake and fraudulent adverts from appearing on their sites in order to force them to take more action. It called on the government to include such a ruling in the scope of its proposed Online Safety Bill.

The survey also highlighted low levels of engagement with the scam reporting processes on online platforms. Two in five (43 per cent) scam victims conned by an online advert said they did not even report the scam to the platform hosting it. The main reason for this is that they did not believe the platform would take the ad down.

“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,” Which? consumer rights expert Adam French said. “Which? has launched a free scam alert service to help consumers familiarise themselves with the latest tactics used by fraudsters, but there is no doubt that tech giants, regulators and the government need to go to greater lengths to prevent scams from flourishing.”

“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.”

Over half (51 per cent) of 1,800 search engine users Which? surveyed said they did not know how to report suspicious ads that appear in their search listings, while over a third (35 per cent) of 1,600 social media users said they didn’t know how to report a suspicious advert seen on social media channels

“The combination of inaction from online platforms when scam ads are reported, low reporting levels by scam victims, and the ease with which advertisers can post new fraudulent adverts even after the original ad has been removed, suggests that online platforms need to take a far more proactive approach to prevent fraudulent content from reaching potential victims in the first place,” Which? said.

The firm has previously carried out research to suggest that Facebook is not doing enough to prevent the sales of fake reviews through its website. 

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