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Facebook And Google Take Slack Approach To Scam Ads

Scam adverts on Facebook and Google are, in fact, prohibited by both companies from appearing on their platforms. However, online scam ads are still slipping through very easily, and stay active despite being flagged by users.

Both Facebook and Google have failed to remove scam adverts even after fraud victims reported them, according to UK consumer watchdog Which?, a not-for-profit, independent organisation.

Both tech companies said they removed fraudulent adverts, which are banned on their platforms. True, but also, not exactly.

The study by Which? revealed that Facebook failed to remove 26 per cent of the scam ads that were reported to it, while Google took an even more sluggish approach to rectifying online safety, with 34 per cent of its reported scams not being removed.

Clearly, a more proactive approach is needed. The report conducted by Which? also found that 15 per cent of those surveyed had fallen victim to a scam advert and reported it. Of these, 27 per cent had been on Facebook and 19 per cent on Google.

While 43 per cent of scam victims didn’t report the scam to the tech companies, the reason for their silence is more telling.

On Facebook, the biggest reason people did not report the scam was they doubted anything would be done. Further to that, a third of the victims surveyed by Which? said they didn’t report scam ads because they didn’t believe Facebook would remove them.

On Google, it was because the victim did not know how to report the scam. Which? researchers said Google’s reporting process was complex and unclear.

Which? said: “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.”

Not just talk but actually taking action, Which? has launched a free scam-alert service to warn consumers of the latest tactics used by fraudsters.

“There is no doubt that tech giants, regulators and the government need to go to greater lengths to prevent scams from flourishing,” 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 … and the government needs to act now.” French refers to the UK government but it’s a notion worthy of global consideration.

What do the tech giants have to say about their platforms still being riddled with scams?

“Fraudulent activity is not allowed on Facebook and we have taken action on a number of pages reported to us by Which?,” stated a Facebook representative.

Meanwhile, Google said it had removed or blocked more than 3.1 billion ads for violating policies, using “a mix of automated systems and human review”.

“We’re constantly reviewing ads, sites and accounts to ensure they comply with our policies,” a spokesperson for Google said. “We have strict policies that govern the kinds of ads that we allow to run on our platform.

“We enforce those policies vigorously, and if we find ads that are in violation, we remove them.

Facebook and Google each have rules for what can be advertised on their platforms, but it would cost them money to check every ad before it goes live. So, they skip this step altogether.

But waiting for consumers to be affected by scams and then report them is not an answer; it still leaves users vulnerable to fraud on the platforms they believe they can trust.

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