17 Jul 2019

Facebook launches ads scam report tool following defamation lawsuit

It’s an industry wide problem but will the big tech giants ever understand the reach of the damage that their negligent behaviour can cause?

Facebook has created a reporting tool for scam adverts and donated £3m to Citizens Advice for an anti-scan project called Scams Action.

The project was launched by Facebook after they agreed to treat the matter seriously after Martin Lewis, the consumer champion, dropped a lawsuit of defamation against them, for the countless scam ads appearing on Facebook that were featuring his image with the endorsement that he was backing financial schemes and to click through on the fake advertisement.

Scam adverts are often posted by fake companies that don’t own, hold or dispatch what they are advertising and if they do dispatch, they are often fake, badly made copies and replacements and incredibly dangerous like miracle drugs to replace medication. They often use celebrity images to endorse false products like mobile phones, clothes, miracle face creams diet pills and ‘get rich quick’ bitcoin trading schemes.

As many Social Media platforms push advertising content and Facebook still does not allow users to deny advertising uploads of their personal data to Facebook, it has become easy for scammers to reach a broader audience. The UK faces an epidemic of online scam ads, yet there isn’t a law or regulation to prevent them. Usually, these criminal scammers are based outside of the EU.

Many ad scams are obvious to lots of people but there are many that don’t recognise them as scams and maybe it is because they are being fed to them on their social media platform and maybe they think that the social media platform would filter out any fake advertisers and protect their users – or would that be too much to expect? Platforms have a big responsibility for their users.

There are thousands of social media users that are left vulnerable. It has been reported that up to 20,000 people on average a year have fallen victim to these ad scams and it has had devastating effects on those that have been conned out of thousands of pounds and the health of those that have actually received their ‘miracle drug that replaces insulin’!

The social media company’s new scam ads reporting tool will be in the UK only and involve a specially trained team investigating alerts raised by users, reviewing reports and taking down violating posts to clamp down on potentially misleading adverts and Citizens Advice will help those that are impacted by scammers and also raise awareness of how to avoid scams.

Facebook have also made updates in its Ad Preference menu to provide users with more information about businesses and third parties, including their email and phone numbers and other data, yet with not allowing their users to deny advertiser uploads and that means that users would have to go through and contact each and every advertiser that is bombarding them and asking them to stop, individually, users are still vulnerable to ad scams.
Social Media companies provide a vehicle to carry fake ads across the world. The reach is global and immeasurable. Social media platform’s collection of data has made it easy for these criminals that are creating these fake ads to manipulate the users on the social media platforms.

Martin Lewis sued Facebook for defamation because his reputation was being ruined on their platform.

Will the big tech giants ever understand the damage that their negligent behaviour can cause?

Global companies are the key to spreading better policing on the internet.

Online defamation refers to any untrue statement (and in this case an untrue endorsement) posted in an online context that causes or is likely to cause serious harm to someone’s reputation or business.

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