The Home Affairs Select Committee recently launched an inquiry into fraud, which included a call to submit written evidence. You can view Clean Up The Internet’s submission here:
Fraud is by far the most commonly experienced crime in the UK, costing billions and causing huge amounts of harm and distress to victims. Yet it has in received in recent years remarkably little attention from either politicians or law enforcement. As the committee noted in its announcement of the inquiry, "In 2022, [fraud] received only 2% of police resources despite amounting to 40% of all crime". The role which social media platforms play in enabling fraud has been similarly overlooked, although that may finally begin to change with the passing of the Online Safety Act.
Our evidence explains how fraudsters exploit the functionalities available on social media platforms which allow the creation and operation of fake accounts. Fraudsters use these fake accounts to identify, target, and groom their victims, and fake accounts are an essential enabler of a wide range of types of fraud. Fraudsters also use networks of fake accounts to create “social proof” for scams, through “likes”, “follows”, “shares”, and inauthentic reviews. We also explain how AI tools can be combined with fake accounts to deliver a productivity boost to scammers, increasing the quality and quantity of deceptive content which they are able to deploy.
We argue that social media companies have failed to prevent the creation of these accounts or their use to perpetrate fraud, and failed to offer other users adequate means of identifying or avoiding these accounts. The Online Safety Act has the potential to require social media platforms to change their products to make it harder for fraudsters to exploit fake accounts, but much depends on the appetite of Ofcom to take action. At best, any change driven by the OSA is likely to be too slow to contribute to the government’s target of a 10% reduction in fraud by the end of this parliament.
We will be closely following the proceedings of this inquiry.