SOCIAL media has the potential to do immense good in fostering friendships and enabling businesses to thrive, but there is also a dark side which those who make vast profits from it have done too little to address.
Bullying and abuse are all too prevalent, especially of the young, and there are insufficient safeguards to protect children from being exposed to inappropriate material.
Child protection must be an absolute priority for society and in an age where social media use is ubiquitous among the young, it means keeping them safe online.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is right to threaten the social media giants with action to compel them to do better on child protection unless they introduce tougher voluntary measures. Vastly profitable companies including Facebook and Google have been given every opportunity to police themselves, yet have been reluctant to do so.
They are largely exempt from the regulation that applies to traditional media, such as newspapers and broadcasters, because they have chosen to argue that they are not publishers of material, but merely platforms for others.
This is a wholly disingenuous standpoint that seeks to evade responsibility, and it is high time that such companies acknowledged that with their huge profits comes a moral duty to play a much more vigorous role in protecting children.
These sites, after all, appeal directly to the young. It is to be hoped that the industry giants heed Mr Hunt’s warning.
If they do not, the Government should not hesitate to act decisively.