Facebook launches reporting tool to clamp down on scam adverts in the UK

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 many 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 ad. 

Scam adverts are often posted by fake companies that don't own, hold or dispatch what they are advertising and often use celebrity images to endorse false products like mobile phones, miracle medical breakthroughs, free trial offers, 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. 

Thousands of people have fallen victim to these ad scams and they have devastating effects on those that have been conned out of thousands of pounds and serious affects on their health if they have actually received the 'miracle new drug that replaces insulin'. 

The social media company's new scam ads reporting tool will involve a specially trained team investigating alerts raised by users, reviewing reports and taking down violating posts to clamp down on potentially misleading adverts. 

Citizens Advice project Scams Action (casa) will help those that have been impacted by scammers (it is estimated that 20,000 people are year are scammed) but also raise awareness of how to avoid scams, too. 

Many ad scams are obvious to lots of people but there are many that don't recognise them as scams and they are left vulnerable because when an advertisement appears on Facebook, they may feel that it is to be trusted; that Facebook would have vetted the company to protect its users, surely? Match that advert with a celebrity's face that is thought to be an opinion leader saying that they use the product or have invested in the company and now life is so wonderful and that is where the dangers lie. It is a ripe area for scammers and it is right that Facebook are doing something about protecting their users because it isn't just an issue with the ad scammers now. It is an issue for legitimate UK advertisers trying to get their brand message across. The ad scam issue dilutes trust.  

There are a few obvious things to look out for in spotting an ad scam:
  • The price is too good to be true - cheaper than it could be bought elsewhere
  • It's a too good to be true Miracle cream that gets rid of every wrinkle
  • Being asked to pay quickly and for any other personal information
  • The http address at the start of the URL should have an s at the end of http: https. This means that the website has a security certificate and that if you are paying by credit card, your card is encrypted. 
  • Check if there is an option of paying by Paypal which would give you added security. If there isn't an option, this should ring alarm bells. 
  • Spelling, grammar, poor images and no contact address on the page.

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, Facebook is still not letting their users deny advertiser uploads of their personal data to Facebook via Facebook itself. Users have to go through and contact each and every one individually and of course, how many people would do that? So, these users are still bombarded with all types of manipulative advertisements, which leaves them extremely vulnerable to ad scams. 

Social Media companies provide a vehicle to carry fake news and fake ads across the world. The reach is global and unquantifiable. It'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 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. 


Choosing how to respond to an internet troll

Should you ever engage with an internet troll?

Okay, so you have written some thoughts about something that you believe in on an online forum, where you are amongst people that seem to share your views and support your beliefs and then, suddenly, Wham! Some anonymous user has come along and started calling you expletives and wishing you a 'not so nice' day.

The violence of the messages have shocked you; alarmed you and they feel threatening.

They are relentless. More negative comments come flying in.

They are writing abuse directly to you and they have an audience and suddenly, everyone can see all of these horrible messages. It has ignited an emotional response within you and you want to retaliate. It's hard not to.

When the posts are spiralling out of control and you are bombarded by ugly words written by someone that doesn't know you (or do they?), your whole day is clouded by this harassment from an internet troll.

What if you respond? 

Nobody should get away with writing things like that to someone else, right? You may feel much better after retaliating with something equally not so nice or suggestions that they go and seek out a therapist or find a new hobby.

That is all they wanted, though. Internet trolls are looking for acknowledgement. All they wanted was a response from you - negative or positive. They have your attention! Whoopee for them. What next, though? It may escalate even more out of control and it isn't just your day that has been affected, it is your every waking thoughts as suddenly, their words are even more personal and more threatening  and they are seriously distressing you. What if they are capable of doing what they are threatening? Is it the woman next door or some prankster halfway across the world? Not knowing who it is or what their motives are, is even more stressful.

If you don't engage with an internet troll, eventually and usually, they may get bored and move on to another target, right? In most occasions that is what happens but sometimes, in our experience, not responding has not been a deterrent for the online troll, whose motives only they know, and they have taken the online harassment to different levels.

So, should you ever engage with an internet troll?

Our Internet Law Experts believe that by not engaging and choosing not to respond but having the offensive posts and web pages removed and then tracking down the internet troll and making them accountable, is an extremely powerful way to respond.


Why your child is not safe on YouTube

Is Google responsible for YouTube users leaving abusing comments on children’s videos?

Google would like us all to believe that the use of YouTube by paedophiles is an unfortunate event which it has no control over and which it did not cause. The truth, however, very different.
For a start, not only that Google has known about this practice for some time, I would go as far as to suggest that by the way Google has conducted itself, it has willingly placed kids at substantial risks.
To fully understand Google's culpability, we need to understand Google's age restrictions policies in relation to YouTube and in relation to Google's mobile phone operating system Android, which accounts to about 80% of the of the new mobile phone sales and which is where most YouTube videos are being watched. So, starting with YouTube age restriction policy, and this is this is very important, Google’s officially says that Read more about child safety online


Is online abuse a criminal offence

Is online abuse a criminal offence in the UK Yair Cohen,

 UK social media lawyer, speaks to Jason Mohammad on BBC Wales: 

It appears you are in the public eye. Many people think it's perfectly fine to sit behind a smartphone or computer and send abuse. Well, the TV presenter [Katie Price] has simply had enough. She's calling on the UK government to adopt Harvey's Law, named after her son, Harvey Price, to make online abuse a specific criminal offense, creating a register of offenders. . Do you think online abuse should be made a criminal offense? And maybe you are put off from going online because of the abuse you could experience. I know a lot of people in the public eye who get it every single day.
 Jason Mohammad: Let's talk to Yair Cohen who's a social media lawyer from the Internet Law Center. Yair, good morning to you. Good to have you. How are you?
Yair Cohen: Hey, good morning. Excellent, excellent. Jason Mohammad: How does it stand at the moment?

Is there anybody stopping somebody sitting in their bedroom sending a lot of hateful abuse to somebody within the public eye? 

Yair Cohen: The law should be stopping them. We have got laws in place, the same laws that apply to offline activities also apply to online activities. I think that, over the years, people have been made to think that they are two different societies.
There is the online society and there's the offline society, whereas the online society is completely unregulated. You can do whatever you want. There are no consequences for your actions, whilst the offline society, you're pretty much heavily regulated.
 There is the police, there is the court, there is everything else. And what we are starting to see now is a bit of a shift in understanding that there aren't two societies.
People are the same people, and what is happening online affects that individual, and their families, and the children, and the parents offline as well.

So the laws are pretty much the same laws. We're talking about particularly the law of harassment. When one is being harassed online, the harassment is an ongoing thing. It is there 24/7. It is there all the time for everyone to see. It doesn't go away. It doesn't stop when you switch the computer off. So we will probably be looking at an offense of harassment being committed by people who just shout abuse at other people online.
Jason Mohammad: So, Yair, when you look at some of the newspapers, you see very often there are articles whereby members of Parliament, politicians, television presenters, sports stars are being abused on a daily basis. Therefore, it begs the question whether social media companies should be taking much more responsibility. Yair Cohen: The approach by government, especially during the Tony Blair era when the internet just started to become more widely available, was that free speech was king, which means the Crown Prosecution Service was giving instructions to the police not to even investigate offenses that are committed online that involve abuse and harassment. It was considered as something which might interfere with free speech, and it wasn't until very recently where members of Parliament started to receive abuse themselves, and experience the strength of the harassment, that suddenly there's been a shift in mindset, and police is starting now to investigate because they are told that they have to do that. Jason Mohammad:

You switched on your phone in the morning, and you were subject to some sort of abuse, what would you do? The first thing you'd have to do surely is go to the police?

Yair Cohen: It depends. It depends on the strength, it depends on the severity of it, but most people will go to the police. Unfortunately, the police is still not up to dealing with those sort of things, so the police will say, "Well, there's nothing we can do about it. It's happening online. Just go home," and it happens time and time again, and we sometimes have to send people four, five, six times back to the police station and say, "No, no, no. You've got to tell them that they've got to investigate." Yair Cohen: The alternative is to take out a civil injunction, because remember harassment is both a civil wrongdoing and a criminal wrongdoing. So even if police isn't doing anything, the individual can either take a private prosecution, so they themselves can go to the magistrate courts and start a case against their abuser, or they can go to a civil court and obtain a civil injunction, which, of course, is very expensive. Jason Mohammad: Yair, good to talk to you. Thank you very much indeed. That is Yair Cohen speaking to us