Online companies will be responsible for stopping fraudulent user-generated content on their platforms, under new legislation.
The Online Safety Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, has been two years in the making. The latest additions to the bill include provisions to tackle online scams, such as romance fraud and fake investment opportunities.
Fraud committed via advertising, emails or cloned websites will not be included in the bill.
Ofcom has been given the responsibility for regulating internet companies who will be required to protect users under a duty of care. Failure to protect users could result in a fine of up to £18m, or 10% of global turnover, whichever is higher. There is also the possibility they could be banned from operating in the UK.
The bill also contains deferred powers for Ofcom to pursue criminal action against senior managers whose companies do not comply with Ofcom’s requests for information.
Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said: “Ruthless criminals who defraud millions of people and sick individuals who exploit the most vulnerable in our society cannot be allowed to operate unimpeded, and we are unapologetic in going after them.
“It is time for tech companies to be held to account and to protect the British people from harm. If they fail to do so, they will face penalties.”
The Home Office will publish a fraud action plan after the 2021 spending review and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will consult on online advertising, including the role it can play in enabling fraud, later this year.