A British coroner in London made a historic ruling on Friday declaring a 14-year-old girl’s death a suicide resulting from harmful social media posts, garnering significant coverage in the United Kingdom.
The coroner’s ruling into Molly Russell’s death five years ago came as the result of a judicial inquiry, declaring that her suicide was “an act of self harm while suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content.”
The coroner, Andrew Walker, said that online material Russell viewed on social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest were “not safe,” and “should not even be available for a child to see,” Fox News reported.
The ruling is the first of its kind in blaming a child’s official death on social media rather than a correlation of the two.
"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," the Molly Rose Foundation said in a statement Friday. "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 Molly Rose Foundation, a suicide prevention organization, was established to honor the teenager’s memory.
A spokesperson for Meta, Instagram’s parent company, said that the company is “committed to ensuring that Instagram is a positive experience for everyone, particularly teenagers,” and that it would “carefully consider the coroner’s full report.”
The BBC reported that Pinterest apologized for promoting the content it sent to Molly ahead of her suicide, including “10 depression pins you might like,” and “depression recovery, depressed girls and more pins trending on Pinterest.”
Prince William weighed in with a statement on the matter.
"No parent should ever have to endure what Ian Russell and his family have been through," wrote William on his official Twitter account. "They have been so incredibly brave. Online safety for our children and young people needs to be a prerequisite, not an afterthought.”
Social media platforms like Instagram have come under increasing scrutiny in the U.K. over their promotion of content relating to suicidal ideation, depression, and self-harm to teenagers.