A coroner ruled Friday on the cause of death of a British teenager, Molly Russell, citing social media platforms as contributions to her death. Russell died by suicide in November 2017 at the age of 14.
“Molly Rose Russell died from an act of self-harm while suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content,” coroner Andrew Walker of the Northern District of Greater London said at the conclusion of an inquest into the late teenager’s death, the New York Times reported.
Per the outlet, Walker added that the internet “affected her mental health in a negative way and contributed to her death in a more than minimal way.”
Following the death of Russell, a charitable foundation was established by her family and friends called Molly Rose Foundation (MRF). It was aimed to help prevent suicide for young people under the age of 25.
According to MRF’s website, Walker noted the online material viewed by Russell, including Instagram and Pinterest, “was not safe” and “should not have been available for a child to see.”
Six months prior to her death, Russell reportedly shared, liked, or saved 16,300 pieces of content on Instagram, of which 2,100 of them were related to suicide, self-harm, and depression, according to data revealed by the platform’s parent company, Meta, per the Times.
The BBC reported the head of health and wellbeing at Meta, Elizabeth Lagone and Pinterest’s head of community operations Judson Hoffman attended the inquest to present evidence on behalf of the social media sites.
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Hoffman admitted Pinterest was “not safe” when Russell used it, adding that he “deeply regrets” the online content that she viewed, per the outlet. Meanwhile, Lagone also confessed several posts presented in the court that Russell had engaged in would have violated Instagram’s policies, despite also claiming some of them were “safe.”
After learning about the ruling, MRF issued a statement, writing, “The MRF welcomes the verdict of the inquest into the death of Molly Russell.”
“At its heart, this is about online safety,” the statement read. “The inquest has demonstrated very clearly the significant dangers social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest present in the absence of any effective regulation.”
“This shows that if government and tech platforms take action on the issues raised in the inquest, it will have a positive effect on the mental well-being of young people, which is the key aim of the Molly Rose Foundation,” the statement added in part.
While speaking to reporters following the ruling, the late teenager’s father Ian Russell said, per the BBC, “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 organizations, rather than engage with online content that may be harmful,” he explained. “Please do what you can to live long and stay strong.”
A spokesperson for Meta which owns social sites Facebook and Instagram said in a statement after the conclusion of the inquest, noting that the company is “committed to ensuring that Instagram is a positive experience for everyone, particularly teenagers” and would “carefully consider the coroner’s full report,” BBC reported.
Hoffman of Pinterest shared with the court that the site “should be safe for everyone” but conceded that “there was content that should have been removed that was not removed” at the time when Molly was using it, according to the BBC.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to 988lifeline.org.