'Too Little Too Late' -- Government Blasts Facebook

To say the proverbial gloves are off in the battle between the Government's Matt Hancock and social media seems an understatement today, on #DataPrivacyDay.

After last week's news cycle ended with some disturbing revelations that children have been encouraged to consider suicide and self-harm from content posted on social media platforms, Matt Hancock has been quick to criticise. Yesterday, the Health Secretary told the BBC, again, that the social media giants need to do more to protect children from harmful online content.

Again, the threat was made that further action could be taken against the likes of Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, among others, if they do not step up to the plate.

This morning, Hancock takes on Facebook's new spin doctor, Nick Clegg. The former Deputy Prime Minister has famously been appointed to be the public face of Facebook batting back accusations that it does not take its responsibilities seriously enough.

The Telegraph took the unusual step of writing about the GBP7m mansion he and his family are moving into so he can be close to the headquarters of the business he criticised over its tax arrangements while he was a politician. As today is a day about privacy, and he shares the home with his wife and three children, I won't share the link. But as you can imagine, it's one hell of a place.

Fast forward to today, and Nick Clegg has been all over the BBC looking sad and concerned when a reporter shows him inappropriate images, particularly for children, that were only removed when the BBC flagged them up. The response to Clegg's promise to do better soon came from Matt Hancock on Twitter today:

"Nick Clegg has clearly already drunk the Facebook kool-aid. He speaks about the "serious legal and ethical obligations" that Facebook has. It's a shame that Facebook has failed to meet these time and time again. This is all too little, too late."

He also took to Twitter today to publish an open letter referencing teen suicides linked to social media, promising more action will be taken, including a White Paper under consideration that will look at tackling self-harm among young people. Again, the threat is made that if social media companies cannot act more responsibly and cannot work with the Government effectively, new legislation will be brought in.

Remember that Hancock is not just Health Secretary but also head of the influential Department of Culture Media and Sports (DCMS) committee that has declared open warfare on Zuckerberg and Facebook for turning down repeated invitations to answer their questions in Parliament.

It was Hancock who revealed sensitive emails being used in an American court case, which alleged to show that Facebook considered selling its users' personal data to third parties.

There have been many weeks where a headline about Hancock going to war with Zuckerberg, via Nick Clegg, would fit the bill. However, it seems to have taken on a greater urgency with the weekend's revelations around the impact of unsavoury content on vulnerable teens, such as yesterday's leader in The Sunday Times

It comes as little surprise, then, to see The Telegraph reporting on Facebook's huge drive to hire a team to, the paper suggests, combat a global drive toward tougher regulation.

Judging by the mood in politics and the media right now, Facebook, and the social media giants, will need the very best to fight off strong pressure to do better and accept their responsibilities as publishers.

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