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‘Make social media firms legally responsible for tackling fraud’

By Margaret Davis, PA Crime Correspondent
Social media companies should be made legally responsible for removing scam adverts from their networks and protecting users from fraud, the head of a policing body has said.

James Thomson, chairman of the City of London Police Authority Board, will tell an audience, including security minister Damian Hinds, on Thursday that tougher measures to tackle internet fraud should be included in the Online Safety Bill.

He also wants fraud to be made a national priority across all local police forces in the UK, in the same way that tackling county lines drugs gangs has been a focus in recent years.

Mr Thomson is expected to say: “Not only does fraud affect millions of UK citizens each year, some of whom are very vulnerable, it weakens our economy and threatens our international reputation as a safe place in which to do business.

“It is vital for online platforms, such as social media companies, to take a legal responsibility to identify, remove, and prevent false and fraudulent activity on their websites.

“Regrettably, this is something they have failed to do effectively to date, so introducing the right regulatory framework is now essential.”

Mr Thomson will call for fraud to be classed as a priority harm in the Online Safety Bill, and for the legislation to include measures to tackle paid-for advertising on social media that con artists use to lure in victims.

His views echo those of consumer champion Martin Lewis, whose image and name have repeatedly been used by fraudsters and who has long campaigned for tougher rules around scam adverts.

Earlier this year Mr Lewis reacted angrily when scams were not included in the Government’s online safety plans as set out in the Queen’s Speech, saying the omission left criminals to “get away with fraud with impunity”.
City of London Police is the national lead force for fraud, and the Police Authority Board oversees its work.

Fraud is estimated to make up around a third of all crime in England and Wales, and Mr Thomson will say around 80 percent is classed as cyber-enabled, involving the use of the internet and digital devices.

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