DURHAM’S top cop has called for internet giants to re-invest their profits into efforts to stamp out online images of child abuse and says people who use social media to bully and harass should be kicked off them permanently.

Mike Barton, chief constable of Durham Police and the national policing lead for crime operations, has challenged firms to do more to prevent content of child abuse appearing and has questioned why it is so difficult to remove it from the web.

He said: “It’s their responsibility and instead of posting eye-watering profits, a proportion of them should be channelled into solving this.

“I am not saying you can stop all crime on the internet. What I’m saying is I think they could do more.”

Figures published earlier this year indicated that forces in England and Wales recorded an average of 15 child sex offences involving the internet every day in 2016/17 and the rising caseload has emerged as a major challenge for police.

Mr Barton described a new trend for live-streaming of child abuse as one of the most odious forms of criminality on the internet.

He said: “They (the companies) will say that the volumes of traffic on their platforms are so high it’s hard to find them.

“The volumes are so high so they earn eye-watering profits – reinvest those eye-watering profits.

“If you can’t police your system because it’s too big, well, don’t run it so big. Run a company that you can control.”

Meanwhile, Mr Barton also called on social media firms such as Twitter and Facebook to permanently “kick off” those who use their sites to bully, harass and stalk other users.

He said: “If you have somebody who has a propensity to insult people and you allow them to stay in that place then don’t be surprised if they insult others and it escalates.

“Why not just give them a lifetime ban? It’s not breaching someone’s human rights to say you can’t use Twitter.”

The senior officer also said that devices that connect to the internet, including things like televisions and fridges, should carry cyber security ratings – similar to energy efficiency ratings – to protect people from fraudsters and hackers.

Earlier this year, an official report warned that smart phones, watches, televisions, and fitness trackers could be targeted by cyber criminals seeking to hold users to ransom over their personal data.