Molly Russell coroner challenges social media firms to help make internet safer

·2 min read

The coroner overseeing the inquest of schoolgirl Molly Russell has challenged social media companies to help “make the internet a safer place”.

Andrew Walker made the remark during a hearing ahead of a week-long inquest examining the circumstances in which the 14-year-old died, and whether algorithms used by social media giants to keep users hooked may have contributed to her death.

Molly, from Harrow in north-west London, is known to have viewed material linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide before ending her life in November 2017, prompting her family to campaign for better internet safety.

At the end of an hour-long pre-inquest review at Barnet Coroner’s Court on Monday, senior coroner Mr Walker said: “We are going to have to look at some solutions to the problems identified (in the inquest).

“And I would like everyone to turn their minds to how we make … the internet a safer place for those using it, and how the information can be better controlled.”

Molly Russell death
Molly Russell, 14, who took her own life in November 2017 (Family handout/PA)

He added: “The earlier the parties turn their minds to that matter, the better solutions we may have in due course.”

The coroner extended his condolences to Molly’s family, and, addressing Ian Russell, Molly’s father, who was present, added: “It’s been a very long journey we have been on to this point, but finally we can see an end point to this journey.”

Mr Russell, who set up the suicide prevention charity the Molly Rose Foundation following his daughter’s death, replied: “Thank you.”

Social media giant Facebook has now been granted “interested party” (IP) status, which allows someone to ask questions of witnesses, receive copies of the evidence, and make submissions to the coroner.

A pre-inquest review previously heard how a huge volume of “pretty dreadful” Instagram posts had been disclosed to the investigation by its parent company.

Another pre-inquest review has been listed for early next year, before the full hearings in April.

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