Tech

Facebook launches UK anti-scam ad tool

Social media giant Facebook has unveiled a reporting tool which is part of an effort to tackle scam ads across the site as a direct result of a campaigning defamation lawsuit by MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis.

The reporting tool consists of a specially trained team who will investigate alerts raised by users, review reports and take down violating posts in order to clamp down on potentially misleading adverts. Trends on scam adverts will also be analysed.

Scam adverts often use fake celebrity images or endorsements to dupe people into buying false products and services and investing in fake ‘get rich quick’ offers such as bitcoin trading schemes and diet pills.

Money Saving Expert website founder Martin Lewis dropped a lawsuit against Facebook in January after the social network agreed to create a reporting tool and donate £3m to advice services organisation Citizens Advice for an anti-scam project.

The 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.

Lewis had announced his intention to sue Facebook for defamation in a personal capacity in a lawsuit following a raft of scam ads featuring his picture.

“The UK faces an epidemic of online scam ads – they’re everywhere,” the founder of MoneySavingExpert.com said. “Yet disgracefully there’s little effective law or regulation to prevent them, and official enforcement is poor to non-existent, as these criminals are usually based outside of the EU.”

“That’s why I sued for defamation,” he added. “Bizarrely, the only law I could find to try to make big tech firms understand the damage their negligent behaviour has caused.”

 

“Today should be the start of real improvement. The aim is to tap the power of what I’m dubbing ‘social policing’ to fight these scams,” Lewis enthused. “Millions of people know a scam when they see it, and millions of others don’t.”

“So now, I’d ask all who recognise them to use the new Facebook reporting tool, to help protect those who don’t – which includes many who are vulnerable. Facebook’s new dedicated team will then hopefully respond quickly to ditch the scammers.”

 

Citizens Advice said its Scams Action team is expected to help at least 20,000 people in the first year and will also work at identifying and raising awareness of online scams.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice acknowledged how “online scams affect thousands of people every year”.

“We’re pleased the agreement between Martin Lewis and Facebook meant we could set up this dedicated service to give more help to people who have fallen victim to online scams,” she said.

Steve Hatch, vice-president for Northern Europe at Facebook, said scam ads are “an industry-wide problem” caused by criminals and have “no place on Facebook”.

“Through our work with Martin Lewis, we’re taking a market-leading position and our new reporting tool and dedicated team are important steps to stop the misuse of our platform,” he explained.

“Prevention is also key. Our £3m donation to Citizens Advice will not only help those who have been impacted by scammers but raise awareness of how to avoid scams too.

“At a global level, we’ve tripled the size of our safety and security team to 30,000 people and continue to invest heavily in removing bad content from our platform.”

In April this year, the social media giant introduced an explanatory feature on its platform which explains to users how its algorithm has tailored the news feed.

Furthermore, back in January, a TechCrunch report claimed that Facebook had been incentivising young people with payments of $20 (£15) per month to install a ‘Facebook Research’ VPN that essentially collects all browsing and phone activity.

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