Facebook, TikTok and Twitter will team up with UK law enforcement to crack down on posts by people smugglers encouraging migrants to cross the English Channel, the government says.
Rishi Sunak, who has made cutting the number of small boats arriving on UK shores one of his “five pledges”, said the new partnerships with various social media companies will tackle attempts to “lure” people into paying to make the perilous journey.
Group discounts, free spaces for children and offers of false documents are among the posts the prime minister wants removed to help achieve his promise to “stop the boats”.
Nearly 15,000 people have made the dangerous trip across the Dover Strait in small boats so far this year, according to official data compiled and analysed by Sky News.
This is around 15% less than the same time last year, the data suggests.
The voluntary partnership between social media firms and the National Crime Agency will seek to redirect people away from such content in the same way as is used to tackle content promoting extremism or eating disorders.
Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, as well as TikTok and X, formally known as Twitter, have all signed up to the plans, Downing Street said.
It comes as controversy over plans to house asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm barge continues.
Mr Sunak said: “To stop the boats, we have to tackle the business model of vile people smugglers at source.
“That means clamping down on their attempts to lure people into making these illegal crossings and profit from putting lives at risk.
“This new commitment from tech firms will see us redouble our efforts to fight back against these criminals, working together to shut down their vile trade.”
Labour said the action was “too little, too late” and the Liberal Democrats said it amounted to “tinkering around the edges”.
Kicking off a “small boats week” of linked announcements, Number 10 said the “legacy” backlog of asylum applications made before the end of June 2022 has been reduced by a third since December.
But Labour claimed it will take until 2036 to clear the existing backlog for removals of failed asylum seekers, with nearly 40,000 people awaiting removal in the latest figures.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said it was “just deluded” for the Conservatives to “boast about progress on tackling the Tories’ asylum chaos”.