Molly Russell, a 14 year-old girl, took her own life in 2017. She was suffering from depression. “negative effects of online content,”After two weeks of inquests into a death that her family claimed was sparked by social media posts glorifying suicide, Friday’s coroner spoke in court
“It would not be safe to leave suicide as a conclusion,” coroner Andrew Walker said in London. The images of self-harm and suicide she binge-watched online “Should not have been made available to a child to view.” Walker concluded.
The case has generated international headlines as Molly’s father, Ian Russell, waged a high-profile battle to force social media giants to take responsibility for disturbing content posted to their sites that can be seen by underage and impressionable young people.
Prince William, in unusual public comments for a royal family member, weighed in on Friday’s ruling. “It is unacceptable for any parent to have to experience what Ian Russell’s family has gone through.” said the Prince of Wales, who met Ian Russell after his daughter’s death.
“They have shown incredible courage. Online safety for children and teens must be a requirement, not an afterthought.” the prince said on Twitter.
After the hearing, Molly’s father said, “It is time for us to protect our innocent youth and stop allowing social media platforms to prioritize their profits through monetizing the misery children.”
The teen had been an avid follower of Pinterest and Instagram, watching and interacting with posts focusing on suicide and depression, her family said they learned after her death.
“It is likely that the above material viewed by Molly, already suffering with a depressive illness and vulnerable due to her age, affected her in a negative way and contributed to her death in a more than minimal way,” the coroner testified Friday.
Two senior executives from Meta, the media giant that owns Instagram, and Pinterest, apologized for the content Molly was able to view. Both flew to Britain to testify.
Judson Hoffman of Pinterest acknowledged that at the time the teenager was using the site, it was not suitable for children.
After Molly died, her parents said Pinterest continued to send her messages with headlines including “New ideas for depression” that included ghoulish images.
Both social platforms issued statements Friday saying they have taken measures in the years since Molly’s death to remove troubling posts. Pinterest said the site is “committed to making ongoing improvements to help ensure that the platform is safe for everyone and the coroner’s report will be considered with care.”
Molly’s father on Friday issued a plea to young people, begging them reach out when depression depends, rather than looking at social media posts that wallow in the darkness.
“This is my final point. I want to remind you that no matter how dark the situation, there is always hope. Instead of engaging with harmful online content, talk to someone you trust or to one of the wonderful support groups.” he said.
“Please do all you can to live long & stay strong.