Coroner blasts social media giants after posts encouraged teen to end life

A CORONER today begged social media giants to “get a moral compass” after disturbing posts encouraged a teen girl to end her life.

Molly Russell, 14, trawled the “ghetto of the online world” in the months leading to her death at home in Harrow, North West London, in November 2017.

Molly Russell ended her life in 2017

Molly Russell ended her life in 2017Credit: PA

Of the 16,300 posts the teen saved, shared or liked on Instagram, 2,100 were depression, self-harm or suicide-related.

Chillingly, Instagram and Pinterest recommended posts that her family argue “promoted” suicide.

Some emails from the latter social media giant included headings such as “10 depression pins you might like” and “new ideas for you in depression”.

Tragically, Molly had reached out to celebrities for help with her depression unaware there was little prospect of reply, the inquest was told.

Senior coroner Andrew Walker has now ruled the disturbing content was “not safe” and “shouldn’t have been available for a child to see”.

He said Molly died from an act of self-harm while suffering from “depression and the negative effects of online content”.

The coroner also told the hearing she was at a “transition period” when she was “exposed to material that may have influenced her in a negative way and, in addition, what had started as a depression had become a more serious depressive illness”.

He had previously voiced concerns about platforms – saying the opportunity to make social media safe must not “slip away”.

In his conclusions, Mr Walker said: “In some cases, the content was particularly graphic, tending to portray self-harm and suicide as an inevitable consequence of a condition that could not be recovered from.

“The sites normalised her condition focusing on a limited and irrational view without any counterbalance of normality.

“It is likely that the above material viewed by Molly, already suffering with a depressive illness and vulnerable due to her age, affected her mental health in a negative way and contributed to her death in a more than minimal way.

“Molly Rose Russell died from an act of self-harm whist suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content.”

The conclusion has finally ended Molly’s family’s five-year wait for answers.

Molly’s family launched a campaign for better internet safety following the teen’s death.

Her dad Ian Russell branded the content Molly was exposed to as “hideous” and said the steps taken by social media companies was “not enough”.

He added: “I believe social media helped kill my daughter.”

Speaking outside North London Coroner’s Court after the coroner’s conclusion, he said: “In the last week we’ve heard much about one tragic story – Molly’s story.

“Sadly, there are too many others similarly affected right now. At this point I just want to say however dark it seems, there is always hope, and if you’re struggling please speak to someone you trust or one of the many wonderful support organisations, rather than engage with online content that may be harmful.

“Please do what you can to live long and stay strong. I’ll give a fuller statement at the church hall when I’ve had time to collect my thoughts and I will be joined by others who would like to say more about online safety.

“For now, thanks for your support and reporting this story so sensitively. I hope this will be an important step in bringing about change.”

You’re Not Alone

EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

The inquest was told Molly viewed thousands of disturbing posts in the months leading up to her death.

She had created two boards on Pinterest – one titled “Stay Strong” for more positive pins and another called “Nothing to Worry About”, which featured “much more downbeat, negative content”.

Molly saved 469 pins to the Nothing to Worry About board and 155 pins to the Stay Strong board.

A letter written by the teen about self-harming was read out by Mr Walker.

It says: “I don’t know what is wrong with me.

“I didn’t have a reason to be depressed, so what is wrong with me?”

Pinterest apologised for the content Molly viewed and told the inquest the site was “not safe” when the schoolgirl used.

While the head of health and wellbeing at Instagram’s parent company Meta said the content was “safe” at the time.

Elizabeth Lagone said she believed it was “safe for people to be able to express themselves” online.

But a child psychiatrist told the inquest some of the shocking videos Molly viewed leading to her death kept him up at night.

Dr Navin Venugopal said: “The content is very disturbing and distressing.

“It certainly affected her behaviour for weeks bearing in mind she saw this over a period of time.

“These videos kept me up at night.”

Speaking after the inquest, NSPCC chief executive Sir Peter Wanless slammed Meta and Pinterest’s “abject failure” to protect Molly from content no child should ever see.

Sir Peter said: “Finally, Molly’s family have the answers they deserve thanks to their determination to see Meta and Pinterest questioned under oath about the part they played in their daughter and sister’s tragic death.

“The ruling should send shockwaves through Silicon Valley – tech companies must expect to be held to account when they put the safety of children second to commercial decisions. The magnitude of this moment for children everywhere cannot be understated.

“Molly’s family will forever pay the price of Meta and Pinterest’s abject failure to protect her from content no child should see, but the Online Safety Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reverse this imbalance between families and Big Tech.

“This must be a turning point and further delay or watering down of the legislation that addresses preventable abuse of our children would be inconceivable to parents across the UK.”


If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans for free on 116123.


Molly's family have campaigned for better internet safety

Molly’s family have campaigned for better internet safetyCredit: PA:Press Association
The teen had trawled through thousands of posts about suicide before her death

The teen had trawled through thousands of posts about suicide before her deathCredit: PA:Press Association