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NHS calls on remaining social media companies to clamp down on ‘potentially harmful material’

The chief executive of the NHS in England has urged remaining social media firms to get tougher on potentially harmful material being posted online

This comes after two of the biggest social media websites join the movement on demands for action.

The promotion of ‘miracle’ cures and ‘magic’ slimming products will be removed from Facebook and Instagram from now on after they announced their commitment to keeping the ‘harmful material’ off social media.

Many of the products have been found to have possibly damaging side-effects and tend not to deliver the desired results.

In addition to this, Facebook-owned platform, Instagram, have promised to censor adverts for cosmetic surgery to under 18s.

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, amongst others, has asked other sites to act responsibly in a bid to protect their users from content that could result in physical or mental destruction.

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 enflame concerns about body image is what responsible companies routinely now all do.”

This comes after a string of high-profile celebrity endorsements for ‘health’ supplements or ‘skinny’ teas and pills. The warning from the health service earlier this year was that they can often do more harm than good if taken without correct advice. It followed a series of concerns raised about suicides and self-harm of young people linked to advertising and social media.

Some celebrities have spoken out about the issue, including British actress and presenter Jameela Jamil who started a petition to stop ‘toxic’ weight loss products on social media. The petition currently has almost 250,000 signatures.

The importance that many users, a lot of which are very young, put on social media make it a risk to their body image and mental health. According to Ofcom 70% of 12-15-year olds use social media and could therefore be at risk of being influenced by people they admire online.

The end goal is to make the online world a safer place for users and reduce pressure felt as a result of social media.

When the original call was made back in February, Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “If a product sounds like it is too good to be true, then it probably is.”


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