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Molly Inquest Opens

Updated: Mar 1

Today is the first day of the inquest into the death of Molly Russell - who took her own life in 2017, when she was 14 years old. Since her death, Molly's father Ian has tirelessly campaigned for changes to protect children online. Mr Russell, who lives in north-west London, believes long-term exposure to harmful material - including material about self-harm, suicide and depression, on social media sites such as Instagram and Pinterest - contributed to her death.

Molly Russell

Meta, which owns Instagram, and Pinterest are officially taking part in the inquest, which is due to last two weeks. It will hear evidence from executives from both companies, after they were ordered by the coroner to appear in person.

Meta is likely to be questioned about a number of internal documents revealed by the former employee and whistle-blower Frances Haugen. These include research carried out by the company into the impact of the platform on the mental health of young people.

'Pretty dreadful' content

The coroner, Andrew Walker, has already been warned that some of the content is "pretty dreadful" and difficult even for adults to look at for extended periods of time

In the last six months of her life, Molly used her Instagram account up to 120 times a day, liking more than 11,000 pieces of content. She is thought to have used the image-sharing site Pinterest more than 15,000 times over the same period.

The inquest is significant for parents in Scotland and across the UK because it is the first time they will see big tech companies questioned under oath about whether their products may have contributed to the death of a child. They will be expected to answer questions on whether their algorithms increased the risk of harm and exposure to harmful content.

It is an opportunity for parents and carers to learn more about the platforms we all use, how they choose content for their users and how that impacts us and the children and young people we care for, and what needs to change to protect children and young people online.


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