The internet is one of best inventions in human history. Never before has mankind had such easy access to a wealth of knowledge, entertainment, and cat videos.
Sadly there are also thorns among the roses. There are plenty of precautions you can take to keep your children safe online, but what can you do if you come across sites that intend to scam their visitors, promote terrible things, or generally have no place in civil society?
We show you a few ways to report a website to the proper authorities, but we also have a guide on how to avoid UK scams.
How do I report a website to Google?
When you do a Google search you’ll often see the top results have 'Ad' next to them. That’s because these are sites that have paid to be promoted when certain keywords are entered.
There’s nothing wrong with this, in fact Google has offered the AdWords feature for many years, but occasionally it can be open to abuse by disreputable parties.
In the past there have been sites which have advertised themselves as portals for public services - such as renewing passports, driving licences, that sort of thing - but demanded payment to access the facilities.
Of course these should be free, but as people have seen the sites appear at the top of the search results they assume that they are the official routes to the services.
If you find a site using misleading tactics such as these then Google is keen to hear from you.
Go to the Feedback on AdWords ads page and fill out the form, selecting the option that best fits your complaint.
You’ll be given a range of further options to describe the problem in more detail. Choose the most appropriate and then click Submit.
How do I report a scam or fraudulent site?
The type of sites we've mentioned prey on people’s lack of understanding in certain areas, but there are others that are flat-out scams.
These will tempt visitors with great offers and then either infect their devices with malware or simply take the money and run.
Naturally this is the point where you want to get the police involved, as scams and frauds are criminal acts.
ActionFraud is the name of the UK’s National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, and on its site you can report a variety of fraudulent online behaviour.
How can I report a site infringing copyright?
If you find a site that is hosting content you’ve created but without your permission, there are a couple of different ways to proceed. The first should be to contact the site directly and let them know that you are the owner of the content, as they might not know.
Should this not prove successful you can move onto the web hosting company instead. To work out who hosts the offending site go to who.is and enter the URL. Under the Registrar Info you should see the name of the company. Now Google them and look for a contact email or number.
If you still find no resolution to the issue there are legal avenues open to you, but they get complicated and potentially expensive if solicitors become involved. For a comprehensive look at copyright infringement try the dedicated section on the official GOV.UK website.
How do I reporting ‘Revenge porn’ websites?
Having ex-partners or even complete strangers posting sexual or indecent images and videos of you online is one of the most distressing experiences you can have.
Unfortunately these types of ‘revenge porn’ are becoming more common as digital media makes it easy to distribute such material. If you’re the victim of this nasty type of attack then you’ll want to visit Google’s revenge porn removal page and follow the advice it offers.
Reporting child pornography sites
These sick sites are not only completely abhorrent, they’re also highly illegal. If you discover a portal that appears to be dealing in this disgusting fetish then you’ll want to immediately report it to the authorities.
The Internet Watch Foundation is an expert in this area and allows you to inform on these types of sites while maintaining your anonymity.
How can I reporting a sites promoting terrorism?
This might not have been something you’d expect to see on a list like this, but such are the times we live in that terrorism is definitely back on the map.
In response to the raised terror threat the British government has set up a Terrorism section on its GOV.UK site where you can report ‘articles, images, speeches, or videos that promote terrorism or encourage violence’.
Obviously for all of the sites listed above you’ll need the details of where the material was displayed as well as a description of its content.
It might be easier to just click away, but who knows who the next victim will be? Best to take the time and do the right thing. Someone may be very grateful for your actions.