UK minister calls for more responsibility from social media platforms after teenager takes her own life
Molly Russell, 14 took her own life in 2017 after viewing disturbing content about suicide on social media.
The UK could look at legislating against social media if platforms do not censor disturbing content.
The Minister for Health, Matt Hancock is pushing for images of self-harm and those that glamourise suicide to be removed from social media sites. Mr Hancock wishes to work together with social media companies, but said that if steps are not taken he believes the government should pursue legal action:
"If we think they need to do things they are refusing to do, then we can and we must legislate."
The issue has come to light following the death of 14-year-old Molly Russell, who took her own life in 2017. Her father has criticised platforms like Instagram and Pinterest for their detrimental effect on his daughter's mental health telling the BBC:
Instagram "helped kill my daughter".
Instagram responded by saying it works with expert groups who advise them on the "complex and nuanced" issues of mental health and self-harm.
Based on the advice that shared experiences and connecting with others could be helpful for recovery, Instagram said, they "don't remove certain content".
The platform said they offer "support messaging that directs them to groups that can help" but said they will be reviewing their policies.
A Pinterest spokesman said:
"We have a policy against harmful content and take numerous proactive measures to try to prevent it from coming and spreading on our platform.
"But we know we can do more, which is why we've been working to update our self-harm policy and enforcement guidelines over the last few months."
Tragically, Molly's case is not a unique one. Papyrus, a charity that works to prevent youth suicide, said it has been contacted by around 30 families in the past week who believe social media had a part to play in their children's suicides.
"Depression is an isolating thing, and the internet becomes company."
30 families have approached a charity saying social media played a role in their children's suicide.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 28, 2019
Molly's family were unaware of any mental illness prior to her death but afterwards saw that she had been looking at content on social media linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide.