Social media platforms ‘must reimburse victims’ who have been scammed
Social media giants have not done enough to stop fraudsters and must ‘reimburse the British public for any scams’, the chairman of an influential House of Commons committee has said.
At a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing, Julian Knight, Conservative MP for Solihull and chairman of the committee, called social media platforms a “shame” and said that they had been making money from scams “for too many years”.
Speaking to Richard Earley, head of UK public policy for Facebook owner Meta, Mr Knight said: ‘It seems incredible to me and to the public the idea that you are winning consistently, over a period of several years, money through the misery of our constituents over being defrauded.
“You are making money from this and you are still making money, and you are still waiting for legislation to come forward before you respond appropriately to permanently exclude these scams from your platforms.”
Earley defended Meta’s review process, which he said checks all advertising to ensure it complies with their compliance and advertising policies.
However, despite announcing last year that it would, Meta’s review process does not currently require all advertisements to be FCA-licensed.
Mr Knight said: ‘People have lost thousands of pounds, some people have lost all their livelihoods, frankly, we’ve had people kill themselves as a result of the scams, and you kept taking advertising throughout time from organizations that are not FCA authorized, and only now are you lifting your finger and making this crucial change.
“You just haven’t done enough.”
He added: “That goes for all social media platforms in fact you should be refunding the money that has been defrauded from the UK public for many years.”
Representatives from Meta, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok were questioned by MPs during the hearing, which focused on an investigation into online safety and online harms and which has already heard the testimonial from former Love Island contestant Amy Hart.
Mr Knight also quoted money-saving expert Martin Lewis, who he says is “tearing his hair out” over the number of paid Facebook scam ads using his face.
The MP criticized companies for not sharing data with each other about scams, calling it a “shame” that “has gone on for too long”.
During the panel, Twitter was also heavily criticized for its verification process by John Nicolson, Scottish National Party MP, Ochil and South Perthshire.
He cited a Twitter account which was set up as Mickey Mouse, with the email address ‘MickeyMouseIsNotMyRealName’, and a phone number of a phone which costs 99p, which then tweeted footballer Marcus Rashford on word “squeak”.
Mr Nicolson called Twitter’s verification system “hopeless and chaotic” and said it was not working.
He said: “You tried to manipulate the description of an anonymous account because someone like this Mickey Mouse account is designated as a non-anonymous account in your current system. Your system is not working.
He added: “If you can’t protect him (Marcus Rashford), what hope is there for all the anonymous people who get daily misery if they use your platform, abuse?”
Niamh McDade, deputy head of UK policy at Twitter, defended the system in place. She said she was unaware of the specific account Mr Nicolson was referring to, but condemned all forms of racist abuse on the platform.