The shameful confessions of Google and Facebook regarding fraudulent online advertising
Google and Facebook have been burned by parliamentary economic crime investigation with MPs furious that tech giants are taking advantage of scammers whose ads can lead to victims being robbed of their savings
Google and Facebook have not compensated any victims of the fraudulent advertisements that appear on their platforms.
The shameful confession was painstakingly extracted from senior officials of online giants who were toasted by a parliamentary investigation into economic crime.
Members of the Treasury Committee were furious that companies would take advantage of scammers who pay to place ads that could lead to victims having their savings stolen.
Rushanara Ali of Labor told Google he was acting in a “downright appalling manner” and raised the possibility of new laws requiring him to stop distributing fraudulent content, with fines for violations.
How, she asked, did Google think of this?
Company Trust and Security Director Amanda Storey spoke about education and sharing concerns, prompting Ms Ali to ask, “Why don’t you answer the question?
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Tory MP Anthony Browne was also stuck at last week’s hearing when he asked Ms Storey, “Are you going to compensate customers who are victims of the fraud you advertise?”
“We have a responsibility to provide a safe experience on our services and we invest heavily to ensure that we keep that experience safe,” she replied, or rather, did not respond.
Mr. Browne didn’t let her get away with this.
“If someone is put in contact with a scammer through Google and they lose money as a result, will you compensate the customer 100%? He persisted.
This got another non-response: “We work hard to make sure that we are never in a position where a user needs to be compensated.”
“Can you answer the question? He pressed. “Have you ever compensated a customer who lost money as a result of Google fraud?”
Finally, he got the confession from Google: “We don’t have”.
Let’s move on to Facebook and its director of content policy, Allison Lucas. Have they ever compensated a user who was scammed by fraudulent advertising on their site?
Ms Lucas said she did not know.
“You don’t know if you have compensated clients for the losses they have suffered as a result of your advertising? Said an incredulous Mr. Browne.
Ms Lucas mumbled something about fixing the underlying issues.
Back to Mr. Browne: “Can you answer the question?” Have you ever compensated customers for the losses they suffered from Facebook advertising? “
She finally conceded: “I don’t know what we have.”
Mr Browne also finally got the two companies to admit that they had no intention of compensating victims in the future, instead placing their hopes in eradicating the fraud.
This brought another scathing response from the hon.
“You are unlikely to eliminate it 100% because scammers are incredibly imaginative and nimble, and there will always be people who will lose money, often a livelihood, because of the advertising that Facebook, Google and others are making it easier, ”he said.
Mr Browne was the managing director of the British Bankers Association and compared the motivation of banks to fight fraud with the lack of motivation of online businesses.
“Banks know their fraud loss rates because they compensate customers for fraud,” he said.
“They know how much it’s costing them and they have an internal financial incentive to reduce fraud as much as possible, so they don’t have to pay for those losses.
“As a business, you don’t have any of these internal financial incentives and you profit from the fraud. You profit from ad fraud and you don’t incur any losses.
When Ms. Storey replied that “bad ads are very bad business,” Mr. Browne told her, “But you make money with bad ads. You profit from that, and you profit from the fact that the regulator is advertising against the advertisements that you are promoting. “
Committee chairman Mel Stride also struggled to get straight answers when he repeatedly asked Google if it would reimburse the Financial Conduct Authority for the ads it felt compelled to run for. counter those placed by crooks.
Google has pledged £ 1.5million in “advertising credits” but, Mr Stride asked, would he get back the £ 600,000 he has already spent.
After an unnecessary response, he stopped Ms. Storey halfway to say, “I still don’t get a direct answer to the question.”
And as some of the world’s richest businesses dive and dive, lives are being destroyed by the online frauds they enable.
There were no witnesses for Bing at the Treasury Committee hearing, which is a shame as he appears to be one of the worst offenders when it comes to allowing fraud.
Last week I put “compare the best savings rates” in the Microsoft search engine and three of the top results were ads for websites that should never have been promoted because they are on the list. consumer alerts published by the Financial Conduct Authority.
The first result, top-isacomparison.com, blatantly used the meerkat mark stolen from Compare the Market.
It claimed to be a savings comparison website promising returns of up to 5%, but in reality it was designed to get your details so that you could be targeted by scammers.
A spokesperson for Compare the Market said, “We take this issue very seriously and protecting our customers is our number one priority.
“We are constantly monitoring activity that may fraudulently use the Compare the Market brand and take steps to remove anything as quickly as possible. “
Bing removed the fraudulent ads after I contacted them, insisting, “We have extensive control measures to identify ads that do not comply with our policies and terms of service and we are continually working to improve our tools. “