The fight against skimmers and scammers speech by the chairman of Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority

Interesting speech, some highlights for you to consider:

How can we make the corporate enablers play their part?

Major companies can effectively enable a huge amount of fraud. The companies which allow people’s personal data to be stolen. The companies which promote advertisements for scams on the internet and thereby profit from these crimes. Quite frankly, they don’t always play their part in remedying the harm they create.

And should the internet service providers, search engines and social media firms be expected to do more to spot and block suspected scammers from using their services? I welcome the decision by Facebook to contribute to the Citizens Advice Scams Action service and to create a scams ad reporting tool, as part of the settlement of litigation against them by Martin Lewis. I hope that Facebook will continue to invest in further anti-scam protections.

And I hope that other internet giants will follow suit. For example, Google searches of ‘high return investments’ continue to reveal numerous very doubtful offers high up the search rankings. We know from the London Capital & Finance case that a large proportion – over £20 million – of clients’ payments to the firm were spent on Google advertising to attract more customers.

The internet giants may argue that it’s too difficult for them to do more, that there are legal complications, or that the internet is too dynamic, changing too rapidly, and that they can’t be obliged to monitor it continually.

Those are fair points. I wouldn’t support imposing unreasonable expectations on the big tech companies but as a minimum I would expect them to take down suspected fraudulent content immediately when requested to do so by the authorities, and ensure that their terms and conditions give them the right to do so. And I would expect them to use their extraordinary resources to work with law enforcement and regulators to develop algorithms and machine learning tools to identify potentially fraudulent content.

I don’t believe that these measures would prejudice freedom of speech. Or that dissent and democracy in our society will be any weaker if we throw some well-aimed grit into the cogs of the online scammers.

The Government’s recent White Paper rightly raises the need for more action to prevent a range of online harms, but doesn’t cover online financial scams which are so devastating. With nearly four million reported cases of fraud a year, and an explosion in online scams, should policy on online harms go wider?

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