Jeremy Hunt Offers Stark Warning to Social Media Companies: Protect Our Children or Face New Legislation

Amid the recent wave of criticism directed at Facebook regarding the Cambridge Analytica Scandal and general fears concerning user privacy, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has thrown his hat into the ring by calling upon social media companies to do more to protect the wellbeing of children, insisting that if they failed to do so then the government would force their hand with new legislation.

In a letter penned to several prominent social media companies including Facebook, Google and Apple, the health secretary slated the “extremely limited response” to concerns previously raised. He gave said companies a rough deadline of the end of April to resolve widespread issues such as underage use and cyber-bullying, before the publication of the government’s response to the Internet Safety Strategy consultation in May.

In his letter to leading online groups and corporations, Mr Hunt wrote, “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.”

This is not the first time that Mr Hunt has attempted to publicly address this problem. The health secretary in fact met with many social media companies six months ago to discuss matters relating to the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. The response offered by these companies however appears to be lacklustre, as Mr Hunt told the Sunday Times, “There have been a lot of warm words - and a few welcome moves to improve children’s online protection - but the overall response to my challenge has been extremely limited, leaving me to conclude that a voluntary, joint approach has not been sufficient.

“None are easy issues to solve I realise, but an industry that boasts some of the brightest minds and biggest budgets should have been able to rise to the challenge,” he added.

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