Labour proposes ‘legal duty of care’ on social media firms to stop scams

·2-min read

Labour would take social media firms to task for scams hosted on their platforms in proposals to protect families from online fraud.

The party said the Government was putting the public at risk by not including online scams as part of the upcoming Online Safety Bill.

Labour said it would place a “proper, effective legal duty of care on the social media companies about what they host on their platforms”.

Shadow digital, culture and media secretary Jo Stevens will tell the Labour conference on Sunday that this would not only apply to scams but also to “increasing levels of child abuse, self-harm and suicide content, dangerous anti-vax misinformation, discrimination, hate speech and more”.

She will say: “We have an epidemic of online scams. But the Government refuses to include protection for people in this Bill.

Martin Lewis announcement
MoneySavingExpert’s Martin Lewis is said to have backed the idea (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“Campaigner Martin Lewis has called for it, victims have called for it, the City of London Police have called for it, but the Conservatives say no – refusing the opportunity to protect the public and instead standing up for scammers.

“Well Labour will do what the Tory Government won’t.

“Labour will build a broad coalition in Parliament for better legislation that protects people against the scammers.

“That puts a proper, effective legal duty of care on the social media companies about what they host on their platforms. And unlike the Government, we will fight for criminal penalties for senior tech executives who repeatedly breach the new law.”

Labour said that last year £2.3 billion was lost to online fraud and scams hitting hundreds of thousands of families, with 413,553 instances reported.

It said online fraud rose by up to 70% during the pandemic as families turned to online shopping and banking and that fraudsters’ most common tactic was setting up fake websites, mobile apps or social media adverts.

Social Media Stock
A view of the Twitter, Instagram and Facebook apps on an iPhone screen (Matthew Vincent/PA)

Ms Stevens will add: “We’ve got a weak and watered down Online Safety Bill four years after the Conservatives promised legislation that doesn’t even fulfil the basic duty of government – to keep its citizens safe.

“Big social media companies have been left unchecked and unregulated, whilst their platforms host increasing levels of child abuse, self-harm and suicide content, dangerous anti-vax misinformation, discrimination, hate speech and more. And those companies make a lot of money out of it.

“The Tories’ Bill legislates for the companies to self-regulate. To mark their own homework. And the good, responsible businesses in the tech sector acknowledge we need clear regulation. We will continue to work with them to make our lives safer online. Especially for children.”

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