The U.K. government announced additional amendments to the scope of the Online Safety Bill this week, this time drawing measures to protect people from advertising scams.
The bill mandates that social media companies including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter—as well as search engines like Google—protect people from both prepaid fraudulent ads and user-generated scams.
The changes are an effort by the British government to make ad industry practices “accountable, transparent and ethical,” Nadine Dorries, U.K. secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said in a statement.
Between the lines
Under the current draft, the bill aims to protect online users from fake ads that tend to collect user data. Social media platforms and search engines will need to put in place “proportionate systems and processes to prevent the publication and/or hosting of fraudulent advertising on their service and remove it when they are made aware of it,” according to the bill. “Catfishing” romance scams and fake stock market tips posted by people through images, comments and videos will also fall under the bill’s amendments.
For the ad world, this means additional vetting and reviewing of ads to ensure they aren’t fraudulent. This process could potentially slow down some of the ads from getting to market, David O. Klein, managing partner at internet marketing and consumer-privacy firm Klein Moynihan Turco, told Adweek.
The costs incurred for reviewing ads may result in a higher rate card for advertisers, according to Klein. Similarly, a legitimate advertiser may end up paying more to be whitelisted by an agency for expediting the pushing of ads. Klein predicts a third way for an increase in costs every time legitimate ads are flagged as fraudulent.
The Online Safety Bill has been in the pipeline for a couple of years and is an effort by the U.K. government to regulate online content and speech.
“They’re putting real teeth into this bill,” said Pedram Tabibi, partner at law firm Meltzer Lippe. “This could be the beginning of additional regulations and a sign of further scrutiny in the digital space.”
The Online Safety bill has seen many amendments in the last year, including a “duty of care” provision for providers to protect users—especially children—from illegal or harmful content.
Separately, the government launched an online advertising program consultation that will review the regulatory framework of paid-for online advertising. This includes proposals on improving transparency and accountability while dodging fraudulent, misleading ads that promote negative body images or illegal activities in weapons sales, which could be subject to tougher rules and sanctions.