Facebook has topped a list of sites used by West Yorkshire’s predators to groom youngsters, according to an NSPCC investigation.

The study looked into the new offence of Sexual Communication with a Child, introduced nine months ago.

Over 95 per cent of grooming cases where the method of communication was disclosed by West Yorkshire Police involved use of Facebook and the services it owns, which include Whatsapp and Instagram.

Only one case out of the 22 where the method of communication was recorded did not involve Facebook’s networks.

The West Yorkshire figure tops the national figure of 52 per cent.

The youngest victim in West Yorkshire was aged eight, despite sites such as Facebook and Instagram employing a minimum age policy of 13 to join.

Several instances of grooming via Facebook have been heard in the Bradford courts over the last few months.

Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety at Facebook, said: “We have zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation on Facebook.”

She explained the site has technology to scan images and flag known child exploitative material, so it can be quickly removed.

The company’s actions can also be important for prosecution.

Ms Davis said: “Our comprehensive reporting system and work with law enforcement officials including CEOP, help build cases to bring criminals to justice.”

But the NSPCC believes not enough is being doing and is urging Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock, to introduce a mandatory code to regulate social networks rather than the current self-regulation many sites employ.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said: “Social networks can’t be left to mark their own homework.”

He added: “Hancock has a golden opportunity to put an end to the Wild West Web and force social networks to protect children online.”

The NSPCC is currently running a #WildWestWeb campaign with the focus on trying to make social media sites more accountable for its young users.

Ms Davis said the company will endeavour to continue to work with experts in order to develop powerful tools to prevent this kind of activity.