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Social media giants ignoring the harmful effects of sites: Hunt

By Shaun Connolly

New laws to crack down on social media giants that allow flagrant breaches of age limits are being considered by ministers.

In a strongly-worded letter to platforms like Facebook and Google, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has accused companies of "turning a blind eye" to a generation of children who are being "exposed to harmful emotional side effects" of social media use.

The firms have been given just over a week to set out what steps they have taken to cut underage use, prevent cyber bullying and encourage healthy screen time, and what more they intend to do.

The Health Secretary warned that the failure of platforms to prevent young children using social media was "unacceptable and irresponsible".

He wrote: "In particular, progress on age verification is not good enough. I am concerned that your companies seem content with a situation where thousands of users breach your own terms and conditions on the minimum user age.

"I fear that you are collectively turning a blind eye to a whole generation of children being exposed to the harmful emotional side effects of social media prematurely.

"This is both morally wrong and deeply unfair to parents who are faced with the invidious choice of allowing children to use platforms they are too young to access, or excluding them from social interaction that often the majority of their peers are engaging in.

"It is unacceptable and irresponsible for you to put parents in this position."

The Health Secretary questioned whether social media giants had "sufficient will" to introduce solutions.

Mr Hunt stressed that the government does not rule out bringing in new legislation to deal with the situation when it considers options in May.

Meanwhile, MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis is launching a High Court legal battle to "give Facebook a bloody nose" and change the way it operates over claims the site is publishing scam adverts causing vulnerable people to hand over thousands of pounds to criminals.

Mr Lewis is due to lodge court papers today for a defamation lawsuit against Facebook over claims it has published more than 50 fake posts bearing his name in the last year, many of which are used to scam money out of people.

Mr Lewis said the legal action was the result of months of frustration with scammers piggybacking on his reputation and preying on Facebook users with outlandish get-rich-quick scams.

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