Facebook and Google are failing to remove online scam adverts even after fraud victims report them, new research suggests.
A survey led by Which? found that more than one-third (34%) of victims who reported scam adverts on Google said the ad was not taken down by the search engine.
Similarly, 26% of victims who reported similar issues on Facebook also found the adverts had not been taken down.
The consumer rights watchdog said the findings raise “serious concerns” over measures taken against fraudulent content online and called on the UK Government to introduce new measures to tackle the issue.
“Significant flaws with the current reactive approaches taken to tackling online scams makes a clear case for online platforms being given legal responsibility for preventing fake and fraudulent adverts from appearing on their sites,” Which? said in a statement.
“Which? is calling for the government to take the opportunity to include content that leads to online scams in the scope of its proposed Online Safety Bill,” the group added.
- DIGIT Startup Q&A | Barry Leaper, Co-Founder of LiberEat
- Tech for Good Summit | An incubator for innovation
- Why senior management needs to make cloud backup a priority
The survey from Which? highlighted the scale of fraud occurring via online platforms.
Of those who said they had fallen prey to fraud on social media or search engines, one-quarter were scammed through Facebook. One-in-five also said they were targeted by scams via Google adverts.
In contrast, just 3% of respondents revealed they had been tricked by an advert on Twitter.
Low levels of engagement with scam reporting processes on online platforms also plays a key role in perpetuating the issue, according to Which? Nearly half (43%) of scam victims conned online admitted they did not report the scam to the platform on which it was hosted.
The most common reason for not reporting fraudulent adverts on Facebook was a belief among victims that the platform would do nothing about it, Which? said.
For Google, the main reason for a lack of reporting was that victims were unaware of how to do so. Researchers noted that it was not “immediately clear” how to report fraudulent content to Google.
More than half (51%) of 1,800 search engine users surveyed by the consumer rights group said they did not know how to report suspicious ads in search listings.
Another issue identified by victims was that if fake and fraudulent adverts are taken down, they often pop up again under different names.
“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,” Which? said.