Social media firms could face 'criminal sanctions' as Government seeks to hold billionaire bosses to account

Education Secretary Damian Hinds speaking to ITV's Peston.

The Government is looking at all options to protect the public online, including criminal sanctions on social media platforms, the Education Secretary has said.

Appearing on ITV's Peston, Damian Hinds said the Government is "looking at all these different options".

Mr Hinds' comments to ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston came as Instagram rolled out "sensitivity screens" to reduce the volume of harmful content young people see on the the app.

Meanwhile, deputy Labour leader Tom Watson, who was also on the show, responded to the proposal by saying his party would "seriously consider" Government proposals to introduce criminal sanctions on social media firms.

He told Robert Peston, digital firms are doing "a lot of harm".

"We're now in a digital dystopia where we have at the centre of our digital market, a distorted market led by a group of data monopolists that are harming society and undermining our democracy," he added.

Mr Watson also responded to a leaked poll from the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) trade union which suggested that not opposing Brexit could be worse for Labour than the Iraq invasion.

He said although he had not seen the document his Party's decision had to take into account what would be in the best interest of the country.

Meanwhile former Brexit Secretary David Davis told Peston that European Council President Donald Tusk's recent comments show the EU was "getting nervous".

On Wednesday European Council President Donald Tusk said there is a "special place in hell" for those who backed Brexit "without even a sketch of a plan".

In response Mr Davis laughed and said "perhaps he'll join us there".

He added: "The very grave mistake Mr Tusk made today, he didn't think about the impact on our voters of that sort of comment because they'll be resentful of that.

"You'll have remainers turning into leavers on the back of Mr Tusk's comment."

Mr Hinds also agreed and said the comment was not helpful or constructive.

When asked why the UK still hasn't got a deal, Mr Davis said "there are a number of reasons".

Listing the "series of errors", he added: "The language on Northern Ireland was a mistake, the attempt to have this so called temporary but actually permanent customs area, which turned into the backstop, was a mistake."

When pressed on whether the UK would leave the EU on March 29, Mr Davis said: "Bear in mind the first part of departure is the implementation period which lasts 21 months and that gives you time to do things."

The former Brexit secretary appeared optimistic about the EU's response to Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal.

He said Mrs May could still get her Brexit deal through as the EU have always said no until they say yes.

Describing the chances of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Davis said it's "certainly possible" but it's not the most likely outcome.

Also on the programme was Sinn Fein's Vice President Michelle O’Neill who said that if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal it would be grounds for a referendum on Irish reunification.