Social media firms should separate content for adults and children, Molly Russell coroner finds

Schoolgirl Molly Russell died after suffering from “negative effects of online content”, a senior coroner has concluded in a landmark ruling Credit: PA Media

A senior coroner has issued recommendations to social media firms urging the separation of content for adults and children following the landmark ruling into the death of schoolgirl Molly Russell.

Andrew Walker sent a Prevention of Future Deaths report (PFD) to businesses such as Meta, Pinterest, Twitter and Snapchat as well as the UK government on Thursday, in which he urged a review of the algorithms used by the sites to provide content.

Mr Walker added that the firms have a duty to respond within 56 days – by 8 December – with “details of action taken or proposed to be taken, setting out the timetable for action.

He said: “Otherwise you must explain why no action is proposed.”

Molly's father Ian Russell then urged the social media companies not to “drag their feet waiting for legislation”.

He said: “In my opinion action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you and/or your organisation have the power to take such action.”

Ian Russell, whose daughter Molly Russell took her own life, is backing the amendment Credit: Joshua Bratt/PA

The 14-year-old, from Harrow in north-west London, ended her life in November 2017 after viewing suicide and self-harm content online, prompting her family to campaign for better internet safety.

Reacting to the recommendations issued by the coroner, Molly’s father Ian said: “We urge social media companies to heed the coroner’s words and not drag their feet waiting for legislation and regulation, but instead to take a proactive approach to self-regulation to make their platforms safer for their young users.

“They should think long and hard about whether these platforms are suitable for young people at all.”

Molly Russell died after viewing content related to depression, suicide and self harm on social media Credit: Family photo

Instagram’s parent company Meta said it supported more regulation of social media after the coroner recommended platforms be required to do more to protect children online.

In response to Mr Walker saying the government should consider legislation that reviews the provision of internet platforms to children, it said it aims to make the platform safe for all users and agreed legislation is needed.

A Meta spokesperson added: "We’ve already been working on many of the recommendations outlined in this report, including new parental supervision tools that let parents see who their teens follow, and limit the amount of time they spend on Instagram.

“We also automatically set teens’ accounts to private when they join, nudge them towards different content if they’ve been scrolling on the same topic for some time and have controls designed to limit the types of content teens see.

“We don’t allow content that promotes suicide or self-harm, and we find 98% of the content we take action on before it’s reported to us.

“We’ll continue working hard, in collaboration with experts, teens and parents, so we can keep improving.”

Pinterest has also said it aims to consider "with care" the concerns raised by Mr Walker in the wake of the inquest.

A Pinterest spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with the Russell family.

“We’ve listened very carefully to everything that the coroner and the family have said during the inquest.

“Pinterest is committed to making ongoing improvements to help ensure that the platform is safe for everyone and the coroner’s report will be considered with care.

“Over the past few years, we’ve continued to strengthen our policies around self-harm content, we’ve provided routes to compassionate support for those in need and we’ve invested heavily in building new technologies that automatically identify and take action on self-harm content.

“Molly’s story has reinforced our commitment to creating a safe and positive space for our Pinners."

  • Samaritans provides round the clock support for people when they need it most. You can call them 24 hours a day on 116 123. They also have tips if you're concerned about someone you know, and advice if you're struggling yourself

  • Young people who need support or have any concerns about what they have seen or heard during the inquest can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or via

  • Adults concerned about a child or who needs advice about supporting a young person can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or via

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