A London medical examiner in a landmark determination has concluded that detrimental online material played a role in a teen’s suicide.
Molly Russell, then 14, tragically ended her life in November 2017.
Coroner Andrew Walker announced on Friday following the judicial inquiry that Molly Russell “died from an act of self harm while suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content,” according Sky News of the U.K.
“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….It is likely that the…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.”
The explicit, unsafe content in question reportedly included images, video clips, and texts. Some unrequested material was allegedly sent to her via algorithms.
In a statement following the release of the inquest ruling, the Molly Rose Foundation — a suicide-prevention charity set up by family and friends following the teen’s tragic death — declared, in part, that it’s time for long-overdue action.
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…Things need to change. Social media platforms have proven they are not willing to make themselves safe without legislative action hence it is vital that the Online Safety Bill is passed without delay and that an era of accountability is ushered in. For social media, the Wild West era is over…We can’t wait any longer; don’t aim for perfection, too many lives are at risk. The regulatory structure can be perfected in the months and years to come.
— Molly Rose Foundation (@mollyroseorg) September 30, 2022
British parliamentarians from Prime Minister Liz Truss on down are considering the aforementioned Online Safety bill.
“We want it in law as soon as possible to protect children when they’re accessing content online,” Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan insisted, according to the BBC.
Some critics have raised concerns about possible censorship and overreach, however.
Prince William also weighed in:
No parent should ever have to endure what Ian Russell and his family have been through. They have been so incredibly brave. Online safety for our children and young people needs to be a prerequisite, not an afterthought. W
— The Prince and Princess of Wales (@KensingtonRoyal) September 30, 2022
“Friday’s ruling — the first of its kind globally — represents a major blow to the tech giants, but police and prosecutors are currently powerless to take any criminal action against them over the case,” the London Telegraph explained about the precedent-setting determination.
Fox News similarly noted that “The ruling was the first of its kind to place direct blame for a child’s official death on social media rather than simply correlating the two.”
During the inquest proceedings, Elizabeth Lagone, the head of Facebook and Instagram parent Meta’s health and well-being policy,, acknowledged that the young girl “had viewed some content that violated our policies and we regret that…We are sorry that Molly saw content that violated our policies and we don’t want that on the platform,” CBS News reported.
In a seemingly unsettling admission, however, Langone “said Instagram had consulted with experts who advised the company to ‘not seek to remove [types of content connected to self-harm and depression] because of the further stigma and shame it can cause people who are struggling,'” CBS added.
"Please do what you can to live long and stay strong."
Molly Russell's father says he hopes the inquest's conclusion into his daughter's death will be "an important step in bringing about much needed change".
📺 Sky 501 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/HfIT6yuRZN
— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 30, 2022
In the six months before her death, Molly Russell reportedly viewed about 2,000 pieces of online content (out of 16,000) that “were related to depression, self-harm, and suicide.”
Coroner Walker “said he would prepare a prevention of future deaths report and write to Pinterest and Meta…as well as the British government and Ofcom, the U.K.’s communications regulator.”
Watch a report aired by Sky News:
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