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Royal colleges back calls for online duty of care

Nurses, psychiatrists and paediatricians say social media companies must do more to protect children

Mark Gould

Monday, 18 February 2019

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has joined the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in backing a campaign to protect children using social media.

The campaign calls on social media companies to sign up to a statutory duty of care. This will force them to do more to protect children from online harm, including grooming, bullying, suicide, self-harm, or advertising that causes body image issues.

The campaign led by the Daily Telegraph also calls for a slice of company profits to be invested in protecting children and researching mental health.

Fiona Smith, RCN professional lead for nursing children and young people, said: “If duties of care for children exist in the offline world, they should exist in the online world too.

"Whether it be online bullying, grooming, violent imagery, or advertorial content that preys on young people’s vulnerabilities, social media firms need to understand that with hundreds of millions of pounds of profit comes a responsibility to ensure children are kept safe and healthy on their platforms.”

The UK government is currently considering plans to regulate social media companies to prevent young people, in particular, from coming to harm.

Meanwhile a committee of MPs says Facebook needs far stricter regulation, with tough and urgent action necessary to end the spread of disinformation on its platform.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, wants to see social media companies to be forced to take down known sources of harmful content, including proven sources of disinformation. And it wants tech companies operating in the UK to be taxed to help fund the work for the Information Commissioner's Office and any new regulator set up to oversee them.

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