A CRACK team of NHS medics will spearhead a massive drive to make the internet a safe place for kids. Senior doctors and nurses will team up with s
A CRACK team of NHS medics will spearhead a massive drive to make the internet a safe place for kids.
Senior doctors and nurses will team up with social media giants to decide which images to take down from their sites.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has revealed he will set up a handpicked cyber-squad to oversee the removal of self-harm pictures from Instagram.
He declared: “This is far too important to be left to the whims of social media companies.”
In an exclusive interview with The Sun on Sunday, Mr Hancock said he had given bosses two months to come up with a fix.
And he warned of tough new laws if they don’t clean up their act quickly, adding: “All options are on the table.”
Mr Hancock acted hours after Instagram caved in to demands to ban graphic content, such as self-cutting videos, from its platform.
The tragic death of 14-year-old Molly Russell, which prompted the crackdown, could easily have been one of his own children, he said, and has convinced him there is no time to lose.
He said: “I want to solve this problem for millions of parents who are worried about their children going into the bedroom and going on to social media.
“I share the view of Sun on Sunday readers, who feel very strongly that social media should be a safe place for all children.”
Dad-of-three Mr Hancock has invited Molly’s father Ian to discuss what further measures he thinks are necessary.
Mr Russell blamed Instagram for the death of his daughter, who is thought to have taken her own life after viewing images which glamorised self-harm and suicide.
His remarks struck a powerful chord with the Health Secretary, whose eldest child is almost Molly’s age.
He declared: “I felt like I could have been standing in his shoes when he was talking about his wife going upstairs and finding Molly. It really affected me deeply.
The Facebook-owned network agreed to remove content – but wants to allow pictures of wounds that have healed
“This is the sort of thing that worries all parents. Molly came from a happy, loving family and had watched TV and packed her school bag as normal on the night she died.
“I have been determined to act in this space for a long time and have worked on it in my previous role, but the impact of what Molly’s father had to say has made me redouble my efforts.
“What I care about is that social media is a safe place for children to be.
“There is no time to waste in doing this. Every minute we lose is exposing all our children to risk.”
Mr Hancock held a showdown meeting with Instagram boss Adam Mosseri to demand the removal of gory self-harm images.
The Facebook-owned network agreed to remove content – but wants to allow pictures of wounds that have healed.
The minister’s response was to set up a team of child psychologists and mental health experts to act as “referee”.
The hard part of putting this into practices is finding where the boundary lies
He said: “Global firms have global responsibilities and if they don’t live up to them then the government will act.
“We had a similar issue with terrorist material a couple of years ago. The social media companies are now much better now it. They have got the tools and I hope that we can make the same progress on self-harm.
“We will help support them with the NHS clinicians so that they can have expert advice on which images need to be taken down.
“The hard part of putting this into practices is finding where the boundary lies. There are some images that obviously promote suicide and self-harm and there are others which are in more of a grey area.
“We need to have expert clinical advice guiding those decisions and not the whims of the social media companies.”
My Labour horror
By David Wooding
MATT Hancock praised a Labour MP who has braved abuse from her own party — and said Tories would welcome her into their fold.
Luciana Berger, 37, who has had death and rape threats on Twitter, now faces moves to oust her from her Liverpool Wavertree seat.
Jewish Ms Berger’s local party received two no-confidence motions against her, days after bosses vowed to tackle anti-Semitism.
Mr Hancock said: “I’ve been horrified by the abuse Luciana Berger has received. Luciana is a force for good who I have worked with on tackling mental illness for her constituents.
“If the Labour party does not want Luciana, she’d be very welcome to stand as a Conservative.”
PROBLEMS WITH NEW TECHNOLOGY
The team will have a similar role to the Internet Watch Foundation, which helps decide what is and isn’t a child abuse image.
Mr Hancock added: “The material we are talking about here is more complex than with child abuse material but our people will work over the next two months with social media platforms.
“I think the companies are starting to get it. It has taken the threat of legislation to get movement but it is happening.”
The minister – a self-confessed digital geek – admits he has been shocked by how many popular sites have been used for.
He added: “I’ve used Pinterest for interior decoration ideas. It’s for sharing ideas, whether you are redecorating your house or buying a new shirt – but its bosses didn’t know that sort of material was there.
“I feel like it’s my job to tackle these problems that new technology brings, because I’ such a supporter of its positive impact on how we live our lives.”
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Mr Hancock said the picture of smiling Molly is seared in his memory and he is determined to change things for the sake of her family.
He said: “Everybody is grateful for the bravery of Molly’s father in speaking out, which has led to the action which I hope will save lives. What he said has had a resonance because so many people can see themselves in his place.
“It’s a great shame that it takes a tragedy like this to promote action but if something good can come out of it – and I think already it has – then that is to be welcomed.”
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