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GDS launches crackdown on fake government websites

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has introduced its Thunderclap campaign, a clampdown on fake government websites.

According to GDS, using standard search engines to search for Whitehall services can often lead to unofficial websites that charge for things that should be free or much cheaper.

The initiative was launched earlier this week, aiming to use social media to raise awareness about misleading websites and encourage users to always use official channels.

The message is being spread via a #StartAtGovUK hashtag on social networking sites.

It claims that user feedback reveals people can often get confused between adverts and genuine search results.

To tackle this problem, the government is urging the public to always use the GOV.UK portal as a starting point for their searches for its services.

“GOV.UK is the best place to find government services and information online,” claims GDS in a recent blog post.

It adds that it is working with search engines to have misleading websites removed, acknowledging that more work needs to be done.

Besides the search engines themselves, GDS is also working with the Advertising Standards Authority and the National Trading Standards Board “to make it harder for these sites to run their business in this way.”

“In the meantime, we’re trying to raise awareness about how to avoid misleading websites. We’re working with consumer organisations like Which?, Citizens Advice Bureau and, just as important, directly with our users,” claims GDS.

The organisation also urges people affected to report their concerns directly to the search engine in question.