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US health official calls for cigarette-style warning labels on social media

US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy speaks during an event on the White House complex in Washington.
US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy speaks during an event on the White House complex in Washington. Copyright Susan Walsh/AP Photo
Copyright Susan Walsh/AP Photo
By Euronews with AP
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A top US health official wrote an opinion article calling for a warning label to be put on social media platforms.

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A top US health official called on lawmakers to require warning labels on social media platforms such as what is currently required on cigarette packages.

US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy said that social media is a contributing factor in the mental health crisis among young people in an opinion article published in the New York Times.

“It is time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents,” Murthy said.

"A surgeon general’s warning label, which requires congressional action, would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe," he added.

“Evidence from tobacco studies show that warning labels can increase awareness and change behaviour".

Murthy previously warned that there wasn't enough evidence to show that social media is safe for children and teens. Its use is however prevalent among young people.

He said at the time that policymakers needed to address the harms of social media the same way they regulate things like car seats, baby formula, medication and other products children use.

Social media companies already ban kids under 13 from signing up for their platforms but children can often easily get around the limit.

Murthy said in the opinion article that the harms of social media were the consequence of releasing technology without "adequate safety measures, transparency or accountability".

Companies should share data

The US surgeon general is also recommending that companies be required to share all their data on health effects with independent scientists and the public, which they currently don't do, and allow independent safety audits.

Murthy said schools and parents also need to participate in providing phone-free times and that doctors, nurses and other clinicians should help guide families toward safer practices.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the Digital Services Act was designed to keep users safe online and make it harder to spread content that’s either illegal, like hate speech or child sexual abuse, or violates a platform’s terms of service.

It also looks to protect citizens' fundamental rights such as privacy and free speech.

Officials have warned tech companies that violations could bring fines worth up to 6% of their global revenue, which could amount to billions, or even a ban from the EU.

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