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Online safety bill a chance for tech firms to ‘clean up image’

Online safety bill a chance for tech firms to ‘clean up image’

Tech firms such as social media platforms and search engines should see the online safety bill as a chance to “clean up their image” and be seen to be doing the right thing, according to this week’s podcast guests.

Appearing on the FTAdviser podcast, Tom Selby, head of retirement policy at AJ Bell, said tech firms should see measures set out in the online safety bill as a positive move in the long-term but admitted these firms have some work to do to stop scams appearing on their platforms.

Selby said: “You look at a lot of the messages that have been coming out from the likes of Facebook in particular, and others and there is a real focus on doing the right thing and be seen to be a good company and one that that can be used for social good rather than some of these social bads. 

“And so you would hope that they would see [the online safety bill] as an opportunity to clean up their image,, and make sure that their users are protected and feel safe while they're using Facebook, Twitter, Google or whichever platform they're using. 

“I would hope they would see this as potentially positive for them over the long term although clearly they'll have some work to do in identifying scam adverts and making sure that they're not posting on their platforms.”

This month, the government has finally succumbed to pressure from the industry and included paid-for adverts in the scope of the online safety bill.

Essentially, this means social media platforms and search engines will have a legal duty to prevent paid-for fraudulent adverts appearing on their services. This is in the hope that fewer people will be scammed via this method.

Also appearing on the podcast, Tim Fassam, director of government relations and policy at Pimfa, said the government has to make these tech giants liable if scam adverts do appear on their platforms.

Fassam said: “We've just got to make sure that there's a price to pay, and that they are held liable and accountable when they have you know, let's be honest here facilitated a crime, and that it is taken and handled with the seriousness that it would be in any other circumstance.” 

To listen to the full podcast click play on the player above. FTAdviser's podcasts are also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Acast.

amy.austin@ft.com