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The UK government is planning to police social media by issuing sites with a new code of conduct.

Social media firms will be required by law to protect children from viewing any content deemed to be “detrimental to their physical or mental health or wellbeing,” according to a report published yesterday in The Daily Telegraph.

Failure to act in line with the government-backed code could result in fines and penalties that could potentially lose an offending company billions of pounds in revenue.  The current code of conduct was created in 2017 and updated in April 2019.

News of the stricter code comes as statistics obtained from the British police reveal an alarming increase in the number of reported crimes linked to Facebook. 

Data obtained from 20 different UK police forces under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request indicates that in the financial year 2019–20, the number of Facebook-related crimes reported to the police was 32,451. When compared to the same period in 2017–18, this total shows an increase in crime of 19%.

Official figures from the police list the total number of crimes with a connection to Facebook as 55,643. Data shared under the FOI request revealed that Leicestershire Police received the highest number of reports of Facebook-linked crimes. In total, the English Midlands force said it had recorded 10,405 such incidents, of which 408 involved victims categorized as “vulnerable.”

Lancashire Constabulary reported the second-highest number of crimes linked to the social media giant. The North West England force said it had recorded 8,829 Facebook-connected crimes, of which 718 were harassment, 179 were sexual offences, 1,007 involved offensive messages, and 1,497 were classified as malicious communication.  

Greater Manchester Police reported 8,230 Facebook-linked crimes, many of which involved “engaging in sexual activity with a child.”

The FOI request was put out by the Parliament Street think tank. Figures obtained by the think tank via a FOI request for offenses that mentioned Instagram or Facebook in the crime notes found that Instagram had been used by pedophiles, stalkers, burglars, and drug dealers to commit 15,143 crimes since 2017. The total number of cases associated with both sites since 2017 is 70,786.

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