Molly Russell died from ‘negative effects of online content’, coroner concludes

A senior coroner has concluded schoolgirl Molly Russell died from “negative effects of online content”

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Coroner Andrew Walker said online material viewed by the 14-year-old “was not safe” and “shouldn’t have been available for a child to see”.

Concluding it would not be “safe” to rule Molly’s cause of death was suicide, Mr Walker said the teenager “died from an act of self-harm while suffering depression and the negative effects of online content”.

In a conclusion at North London Coroner’s Court on Friday, he said: “Molly was at a transition period in her young life which made certain elements of communication difficult.”

Molly Russell
Molly Russell

He added the teenager was “exposed to material that may have influenced her in a negative way and, in addition, what had started as a depression had become a more serious depressive illness”.

The inquest heard how Molly accessed material from the “ghetto of the online world” before her death in November 2017, with her family arguing that sites such as Pinterest and Instagram recommended accounts or posts that “promoted” suicide and self-harm.

In a statement after the coroner’s conclusion, NSPCC chief executive Sir Peter Wanless condemned what he described as Meta and Pinterest’s “abject failure” to protect Molly from content no child should ever see.

Molly Russell's father, Ian Russell
Molly Russell's father, Ian Russell

Sir Peter said: “Finally, Molly’s family have the answers they deserve thanks to their determination to see Meta and Pinterest questioned under oath about the part they played in their daughter and sister’s tragic death.

“The ruling should send shockwaves through Silicon Valley – tech companies must expect to be held to account when they put the safety of children second to commercial decisions. The magnitude of this moment for children everywhere cannot be understated.

“Molly’s family will forever pay the price of Meta and Pinterest’s abject failure to protect her from content no child should see, but the Online Safety Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reverse this imbalance between families and Big Tech.

“This must be a turning point and further delay or watering down of the legislation that addresses preventable abuse of our children would be inconceivable to parents across the UK.”