Father Attacks Meta After Girl's Death

Molly Russell, 14, was shown harmful content she didn't seek
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2022 5:25 PM CDT
Coroner, Father Blame Meta in Girl's Death
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces the company's new name last October in Sausalito, Calif.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

After an inquest found Friday that material on social media contributed to a London 14-year-old's death while self-harming, her father accused Meta of sending Molly Russell down a "demented trail of life-sucking content" for profit. The coroner said the sites' algorithms delivered harmful content to the teenager that she had not requested, adding that some of it romanticized self-harm and discouraged users from seeking professional help. After holding a two-week hearing, Andrew Walker said that while he couldn't rule her death suicide, it's likely that the content that Molly, who had a depressive illness, saw negatively affected her and contributed substantially to her death. Her father then demanded action from Meta, the Guardian reports, and Britain's Prince William issued a statement of support.

Executives from Meta and Pinterest apologized during the hearing for the content their sites promoted to Molly, a sample of which—including nooses, pills, and razor blades—was shown in the inquest, per the BBC. After first arguing that the content was safe, a Meta executive conceded that some of it violated the sites' guidelines. "If this demented trail of life-sucking content was safe, my daughter Molly would probably still be alive," Ian Russell, 59, said afterward. The companies, he said, are preying on vulnerable young people by "monetizing misery." Molly Russell died in 2017.

Asked if he had a message for Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg, Ian Russell said: "Listen to people who use his platform. Listen to the conclusions that the coroner has given, then do something about it." He's met Prince William, who cited the family's courage in a tweet Friday. "No parent should ever have to endure what Ian Russell and his family have been through," William said, adding, "Online safety for our children and young people needs to be a prerequisite, not an afterthought." (More Meta stories.)

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