Japan Govt to Urge Social Media Operators to Strengthen Screening of Ads Following Rapid Rise in Online Scams

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and other Cabinet ministers attend a ministerial meeting on measures against crime at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday morning.

In response to a sharp increase in fraudulent advertisements on social media using the names and images of prominent figures without their consent to solicit investments or for other purposes, the government intends to urge social media operators to strengthen their screening of ads to be posted.

The move is the main part of comprehensive measures across government ministries and agencies. The decision was made Tuesday at a ministerial meeting on measures against crime.

Fake ads on social media have become a gateway to investment fraud, causing harm. The government is considering urging social media platforms, such as Meta Platforms Inc., which operates Facebook, to enhance their screening of ads, with the aim of working with the public sector to deter harm.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at the meeting, “I hope you will make thorough efforts with strong determination to protect the public from fraud.”

According to the National Police Agency, damage caused by fraud doubled last year from the previous year to about \163 billion. Damage due to social media-related fraud from January to April this year totaled about \33.4 billion, exceeding the about \27.8 billion during a one-year period last year.

The comprehensive measures include requesting social media operators to formulate and publish their screening standards for ads to be posted. Operators are also requested to improve their screening systems by assigning to the task a sufficient number of personnel who understand the Japanese language and Japanese laws and regulations, and to strengthen the identification of advertisers.

The government is also requesting operators to promptly remove ads that have been used in fraudulent ways. In addition, since there have been many cases of people being deceived after being led to group chats with limited users, operators are requested that ads that are set up to lead users to such chats not be adopted, in principle.

In addition to Meta, the request is expected to be directed at other operators, including Line operator LY Corp.

Meanwhile, the harm of so-called romance fraud, in which victims are tricked into having romantic feelings over social media so the perpetrator can swindle them out of cash, is also a serious problem. The comprehensive measures request that the operators of dating apps, which are the main means of contact in the fraud, strictly verify the identity of users when they open accounts.

In addition, as a measure against special fraud, the means of identification when signing a mobile phone contract will, in principle, be unified to My Number personal identification cards. Since counterfeit My Number cards have been misused for fraudulent contracts, the government will promote an electronic verification method that reads IC chip information.

The ministerial meetings on measures against crime were established in 2003 to address the deteriorating public security situation, and Tuesday’s meeting was the 39th.