Work must be done to minimise the potential for seeing harmful online content beyond social media

Samaritans responds to the Health Secretary's calls on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show for social media platforms to make their channels a safer place for people who may be struggling. 

Jacqui Morrissey, Assistant Director of Research and Influencing said:

“We welcome the steps that Health Secretary Matt Hancock is taking to try and ensure social media platforms are safer for users.   We need to minimise the potential for seeing harmful content online, but this needs to go beyond social media, and look more broadly at the online environment. There are a multitude of websites that host harmful content, and many of these are hosted overseas.

“Research undertaken by Samaritans and the University of Bristol sought to understand how people use the internet when they are feeling suicidal.  This showed that people were using the internet to discuss suicidal feelings, to search for information on suicide, to visit help sites and to look for information on method.  

“Any approach to reducing harmful content online, must also recognise the importance of social media and the online environment and the positive place that it can provide for people to share their feelings, and talk about their experiences in a way that they may not feel is possible offline.

“The Government’s Internet Safety Strategy needs to ensure all organisations, including social media, but also search engine providers, news media outlets and websites have robust policies and practices in place relating to suicide and self-harm to reduce the availability of harmful content and promote sources of support.

“We also want to see an improvement in the online help available and we need a better understanding of this issue. The Government and tech companies need to be investing in the development of improved online support, as well as research to enhance our understanding of the impact of different content on users at different times.”


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