Google, FB turning a blind eye to impact on children: U.K. Minister

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Google’s U.K. operation and Facebook said they were committed to protecting children and working on new features to help

Britain’s Health Minister Jeremy Hunt threatened to impose new regulations on social media firms unless they do more to protect young people using their services.

Mr. Hunt said the groups were “turning a blind eye” to the effect social media had on children’s well-being.

Google’s U.K. operation and Facebook said they were committed to protecting children and working on new features to help.

Mr. Hunt did not say what kind of regulations the government could impose, but gave the companies an end-of-April deadline to come up with measures to tackle cyberbullying and control the amount of time youngsters spent online.

In an article in The Sunday Times newspaper, Mr. Hunt said there had been a few welcome moves to improve children’s online protection, but that the overall response had been “extremely limited” and that a voluntary approach might not be enough.

Mr. Hunt’s comments came alongside the announcement of a government review of the impact that sites like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have on children’s mental health.

Britain has clashed with Internet companies on several fronts in recent years over payment of taxes, action against the spread of fake news and extremist material, and their use of personal data.

“We welcome the Health Secretary’s continued engagement on this important issue and we share his ambition to create a safe and supportive environment for young people online,” said Karim Palant, Facebook U.K. Public Policy Manager.

Google UK’s Public Policy Manager, Katie O’Donovan, said the company had introduced features to help parents set screen time limits and launched an online safety course for children.

“Along with all parents, we understand the challenge of helping children make the most of the Internet in a safe and responsible way,” she added.

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