Money Saving Expert founder Martin Lewis hopes two initiatives to tackle scam adverts online, launching today as a result of his defamation lawsuit against Facebook, will be the “start of real improvement” online.
Lewis (pictured) launched a High Court legal battle against the tech giant in April last year after claiming scammers had been piggybacking on his reputation as a well-known financial journalist to prey on users with get-rich-quick plots.
He claimed more than 1,000 fake posts bore his name in just a year and said he wanted to give Facebook a “bloody nose” to make it change the way it operates after initially deeming its response “not good enough”.
The journalist dropped the case in January after coming to an agreement with Facebook that it would donate £3m to charity and create a new reporting button for scam ads with a dedicated team to handle the reports.
Facebook is launching the tool within its UK app today to enable users to flag ads they believe to be scams or misleading for review and potential removal by specially trained staff.
Users can report ads by clicking in the top right hand corner of each post and pressing “report ad”, then specifying whether it is a misleading or scam ad before clicking “send a detailed scam report”.
Also today, the Citizens Advice Bureau is launching a new online scams service with the £3m donated by Facebook to help people who are worried they are being scammed or have already been tricked out of money.
It was originally planned that the services would launch in May.
Lewis said: “The UK faces an epidemic of online scam ads – they’re everywhere. Yet disgracefully there’s little effective law or regulation to prevent them, and official enforcement is poor to non-existent, as these criminals are usually based outside of the EU.
“That’s why I sued for defamation, bizarrely the only law I could find to try to make big tech firms understand the damage their negligent behaviour has caused.
“Today should be the start of real improvement. The aim is to tap the power of what I’m dubbing ‘social policing’ to fight these scams. Millions of people know a scam when they see it, and millions of others don’t.
“So now, I’d ask all who recognise them to use the new Facebook reporting tool, to help protect those who don’t – which includes many who are vulnerable. Facebook’s new dedicated team will then hopefully respond quickly to ditch the scammers.”
Lewis said he hopes Facebook will consider its new tool a success and roll it out to the rest of the world.
The Citizens Advice Scams Action project will enable people to access new advice on the charity’s website, a dedicated phone line with advisers trained in online scams, a web chat service, and face-to-face appointments at local branches in England, Wales and Scotland.
It will also undertake scam protection work to “identify, tackle and raise awareness of online scams “. The CAB’s work will not just focus on scam ads, but also take in those run through emails and websites and those relating to online investments.
CAB expects the service to help 20,000 people in its first year, with Lewis warning it “may be busy at first” but should soon become a “firm fixture” in the fight against scam ads.
“However, the resources won’t last for ever and I’d call on the other big players to follow Facebook’s lead and put their hands in their pockets to fund CASA and those who’ve been victims of scams served on their sites too,” he said.
Steve Hatch, Facebook’s vice president for northern Europe, said the web giant had tripled the size of its global safety and security team to 30,000 staff and said it “continue[s] to invest heavily in removing bad content from our platform”.
“Through our work with Martin Lewis, we’re taking a market leading position and our new reporting tool and dedicated team are important steps to stop the misuse of our platform,” Hatch (pictured, left) said.
“Prevention is also key. Our £3m donation to Citizens Advice will not only help those who have been impacted by scammers, but raise awareness of how to avoid scams too.”
Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA Wire