Molly Russell inquest: Instagram clips seen by teen 'most distressing'

·2 min read

The inquest of a 14-year-old girl who took her own life has been examining the impact of material she viewed on Instagram in the run-up to her death.

Molly Russell, from Harrow, north-west London, engaged with numerous accounts referring to self-harm, depression or suicide before killing herself in 2017.

The court heard how the platform recommended further content based on those views.

Elizabeth Lagone, from Meta, which owns Instagram, defended their policies.

Ms Lagone, head of health and well-being at the social media giant formerly known as Facebook, told the North London Coroner's Court that suicide and self-harm material could have been posted by a user as a "cry for help".

She said it was an important consideration of the company, even in its policies at the time of Molly's death, to "consider the broad and unbelievable harm that can be done by silencing [an Instagram user's] struggles".

Instagram's guidelines at the time, which were shown to the court, said users were allowed to post content about suicide and self-harm to "facilitate the coming together to support" other users but not if it "encouraged or promoted" this.

Asked by the family's lawyer Oliver Sanders KC whether it was obvious it was not safe for children to see "graphic suicide imagery", the executive said: "I don't know… these are complicated issues."

Mr Sanders drew the witness's attention to experts who had informed Meta it was not safe for children to view such material, before asking: "Had they previously told you something different?"

Ms Lagone responded: "We have ongoing discussions with them but there are any number of… issues we talk about with them."

Elizabeth Lagone, Meta's head of health and well-being
Elizabeth Lagone, Meta's head of health and well-being gave evidence at North London Coroner's Court

Earlier, the inquest was shown footage Molly had liked or saved. The court, sitting in Barnet, was warned by coroner Andrew Walker the footage was "most distressing... it is almost impossible to watch".

Mr Walker told the inquest there had been a discussion about whether to edit the videos before they were played.

He added: "But Molly had no such choice, so we would in effect be editing the footage for adult viewing when it was available in an unedited form for a child."

On Thursday, Pinterest's head of community operations, Judson Hoffman, apologised after admitting the platform was "not safe" when the 14-year-old used it.

Mr Hoffman said he "deeply regrets" posts viewed by Molly on the image-sharing site before her death, saying it was material he would "not show to my children".

The inquest, due to last up to two weeks, continues.

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