The UK government and some of the world’s biggest tech companies have agreed a series of pledges to protect the public from online fraud.
People across the UK should be better protected from online scams, fake adverts and romance fraud as the world’s biggest tech companies pledge to take additional action to block and remove fraudulent content from their sites.
With fraud being the most common crime in the UK, the government has joined forces with leading tech companies – Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Match Group, Microsoft, Snapchat, TikTok, X Twitter and YouTube – to develop and commit to the Online Fraud Charter, the first agreement of its kind in the world.
Services have committed to bring in a raft of measures to help protect people from fraud and scam content when using their sites. Actions include verifying new advertisers and promptly removing any fraudulent content. There will also be increased levels of verification on peer-to-peer marketplaces, and people using online dating services will have the opportunity to prove they are who they say they are.
The charter will be supported by tough action to crack down on illegal adverts and ads for age-restricted products, such as alcohol or gambling, being seen by children.
Home Secretary James Cleverly said: “The Online Fraud Charter is a big step forward in our efforts to protect the public from sophisticated, adaptable and highly organised criminals.
“An agreement of this kind has never been done on this scale before and I am exceptionally pleased to see tech firms working with us to turn the tide against fraudsters.
“Our work does not end here – I will continue to ensure we collaborate across government, and with law enforcement and the private sector, to ensure everyone in the UK is better protected from fraud.”
Harry Eccles-Williams, managing associate at law firm Mishcon de Reya, said the Charter is “a welcome commitment to stamping out fraud”.
“It builds on the provisions in the Online Safety Act aimed at preventing users from encountering fraudulent material online,” he added.
“Where the technology to make ever more convincing scams, particularly AI, is evolving rapidly, it is vital to have the support of the major tech companies to introduce systemic measures, such as ID verification, that can keep pace with change.”
The agreement has come following extensive discussions between the government, the private sector and law enforcement, spearheaded by Security Minister Tom Tugendhat and Anti-Fraud Champion Anthony Browne.
In addition to clamping down on scam posts offering goods and services, each signatory has pledged to work closely with law enforcement in their efforts to target fraudsters.
The tech firms will also commit to running direct routes for law enforcement to report suspicious activity taking place on the services, making it easier to quickly identify and remove fraudulent content and protect users.
Fraud accounts for around 40% of all crime in England and Wales, with data from UK Finance showing almost 80% of all authorised pushed payment fraud originates from social media or a fake website.
Antony Walker, deputy CEO of techUK, said: “We are pleased to have worked at pace with the government in the development of the Online Fraud Charter which will improve the coordination of actions by tech firms to tackle online fraud.
“The charter builds on measures that tech firms already have in place to defend against online fraud and will enable better and more consistent cooperation between the private sector, government and law enforcement.
“The nature of online fraud is constantly evolving and tech companies are continually adapting and improving their approaches to combat this criminal activity.”
Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: “We are in the midst of an epidemic of scams, which not only devastate people’s financial lives, but their mental health and sense of self-esteem too.
“I’ve long called for regulation and law changes to make these big tech firms step up to the plate and deny these scammers the oxygen of publicity. So I am pleased at the signing of this voluntary agreement, which is adopting many of the scam ad protection measures we’ve been calling for – such as 2 click reporting, and advertiser and site destination verification.
“We will be watching closely to check these companies work hard, and work together to make good on their promises.”
All signatories of the charter, which is a voluntary commitment, have pledged to implement the measures which apply to their companies within six months.