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Facebook, Twitter, and Google must remove scams or risk legal action, says EU

Navigating your way around the internet may seem intuitive if you’ve grown up with access to it most of your life — but for those who are just beginning to use social media platforms, it can be hard to detect scam from the constant stream of information. The European Commission has taken a step to prevent these types of web-based consumer fraud, ordering companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to address and prevent them from appearing on their sites.

The European Union defines addressing the issue in two parts. First, the sites would have to clarify their terms of services to better protect users from scams. In practice, this means social media networks “cannot require consumers to waive mandatory rights, such as their right to withdraw from an on-line purchase,” and sponsored content should be easily identifiable, the EU said. Additionally, “terms of services cannot limit or totally exclude the liability of social media networks in connection with the performance of the service.”

The EU also ordered these social networks to remove fraudulent posts that can mislead consumers. The examples are listed below:

  • Scams involving payments taken from consumers
  • Subscription traps where consumers are offered to register for a free trial but are not given clear and sufficient information
  • Marketing of counterfeited products
  • Fake promotions like "win a smart phone for 1 €" have proliferated over social media which were in fact a true contest but entailing a hidden long-term subscriptions for several hundred euros per year

The EU said it has met with all three companies and will give them one month to propose solutions that comply with its regulatory framework or risk legal action.