My daughter, 14, killed herself after seeing suicide posts on Instagram – social media giants have 56 days to act | The Sun
THE dad of schoolgirl Molly Russell has urged social media companies not to "drag their feet waiting for legislation" after his daughter viewed suicide posts online.
It comes as senior coroner Andrew Walker issued recommendations including separate platforms for adults and children.
Mr Walker sent a Prevention of Future Deaths report to businesses such as Meta, Pinterest, Twitter and Snapchat as well as the Government on Thursday, in which he urged a review of the algorithms used by the sites to provide content.
The 14-year-old, from Harrow in north-west London, took her own life in November 2017 after viewing suicide and self-harm content online, prompting her family to campaign for better internet safety.
Reacting to the recommendations issued by the coroner, Molly's father Ian said: "We welcome this report by the coroner, which echoes our concerns about the online dangers Molly was exposed to, and pushed towards by the platforms' algorithms.
"We urge social media companies to heed the coroner's words and not drag their feet waiting for legislation and regulation, but instead to take a proactive approach to self-regulation to make their platforms safer for their young users.
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"They should think long and hard about whether their platforms are suitable for young people at all.
"The Government must also act urgently to put in place its robust regulation of social media platforms to ensure that children are protected by from the effects of harmful online content, and that platforms and their senior managers face strong sanctions if they fail to take action to curb the algorithmic amplification of destructive and extremely dangerous content or fail to remove it swiftly.
"I hope this will be implemented swiftly through the Online Safety Bill which must be passed as soon as possible."
The senior coroner also suggested the Government should look at verification of age before joining the platform, provision of age specific content, the use of algorithms to provide content, the use of advertising and parental guardian or carer control, including access to material viewed by a child, and retention of material.
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Mr Walker said after the inquest: “I recommend that consideration is given to enacting such legislation as may be necessary to ensure the protection of children from the effects of harmful online content and the effective regulation of harmful online content.
"Although regulation would be a matter for Government, I can see no reason why the platforms themselves would not wish to give consideration to self-regulation taking into account the matters raised above."
He sent his report to businesses such as Meta, Pinterest, Twitter and Snapchat as well as to Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, telling them: "In my opinion action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you and/or your organisation have the power to take such action."
He said they were under a duty to respond within 56 days – by December 8 – with "details of action taken or proposed to be taken, setting out the timetable for action.
"Otherwise you must explain why no action is proposed."
Instagram's parent company Meta said it supported more regulation of social media following the coroner’s recommendations.
In response, a Meta company spokesperson said: "We're committed to making Instagram a safe and positive experience for everyone, particularly teenagers, and are reviewing the Coroner's report.
"We agree regulation is needed and we've already been working on many of the recommendations outlined in this report, including new parental supervision tools that let parents see who their teens follow, and limit the amount of time they spend on Instagram.
"We also automatically set teens' accounts to private when they join, nudge them towards different content if they've been scrolling on the same topic for some time and have controls designed to limit the types of content teens see.
"We don't allow content that promotes suicide or self-harm, and we find 98 per cent of the content we take action on before it's reported to us.
"We'll continue working hard, in collaboration with experts, teens and parents, so we can keep improving."
Pinterest has said it will consider "with care" the recommendations made.
A Pinterest spokesperson said: "Our thoughts are with the Russell family.
"We've listened very carefully to everything that the coroner and the family have said during the inquest.
"Pinterest 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.
"Over the past few years, we've continued to strengthen our policies around self-harm content, we've provided routes to compassionate support for those in need and we've invested heavily in building new technologies that automatically identify and take action on self-harm content.
"Molly's story has reinforced our commitment to creating a safe and positive space for our Pinners.”
Prince William also hit out at social media companies at the end of September this year.
In an unprecedented move, the Prince of Wales piled pressure on Silicon Valley and urged them to change their ways.
In a Twitter message he said: "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.”
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The coroner ruled Molly had died from “an act of self-harm while suffering depression and the negative effects of online content”.
It is thought to be the first time social media firms have been held partly responsible for a death.
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:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
- Movember, www.uk.movember.com
- Anxiety UK www.anxietyuk.org.uk, 03444 775 774 Monday-Friday 9.30am-10pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am-8pm
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