calls for online protection, social media sites
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Facebook and Instagram have announced they are removing posts that promote ‘miracle’ cures, in line with the NHS call for online protection

The chief executive of the NHS in England has called on all social media firm to crack down on potentially harmful material after two of the biggest sites confirm they plan to act on health service demands for action.

NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis warned that paid-for promotion of products including diet pills, detox teas and appetite-suppressant sweets on social media sites, could have a damaging impact on physical and mental health.

Professor Powis is urging celebrities who are influential among young people to act responsibly when taking payment from companies to push products with health implications.

The medical director said that social media companies should also act and take down posts that promote products that could cause physical or mental harm.

The intervention follows a series of high profile concerns raised about suicides and self-harm of young people linked to advertising and social media.

The Science and Technology Committee has also concluded in the House of Commons that social media companies must be subject to a legal duty of care to help protect young people’s health and wellbeing when accessing their sites, with 70% of 12-15 year olds having an online profile, according to Ofcom.

The move follows a series of requests from health service chiefs including NHS chief executive Simon Stevens to act responsibly and protect users from content that could cause physical or mental harm.

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said:

“Every business should put a premium on its customers’ well-being and it’s welcome that social media giants are beginning to listen to NHS calls to rein in harmful or misleading content that could harm users’ health.

“The NHS is ramping up prevention and treatment for mental as well as physical health through our Long Term Plan. Cracking down on ads for get-slim quick pills, misleading health advice and content that can inflame concerns about body image is what responsible companies routinely now all do.”

Earlier this year, the health service warned that celebrity-endorsed ‘health’ supplements and diet techniques can do more harm than good without correct advice, with many – particularly younger – users, risking mental ill health and body image distress as a result of online content.


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