Molly Russell coroner calls for review of children’s access to social media | internet security

Molly Russell’s inquest coroner has recommended the government consider separate social media platforms for children and adults as he calls for a review of children’s use of online content. Chief Coroner Andrew Walker, who chaired

Molly Russell’s inquest coroner has recommended the government consider separate social media platforms for children and adults as he calls for a review of children’s use of online content.

Chief Coroner Andrew Walker, who chaired the inquest into the death of 14-year-old Molly, issued safety recommendations focusing on children’s access to social media content. Molly, from Harrow, north-west London, died in November 2017 after viewing large amounts of material relating to suicide, depression, anxiety and self-harm on platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest.

Walker released a report on preventing future deaths, recommending the government review the provision of internet platforms to children. As part of that review, he said, he should consider: separate sites for children and adults; verify the age of a user before registering on a platform; provide age-appropriate content for children; the use of algorithms to deliver content; advertising directed at children; and parent or guardian access to a child’s social media account.

In a landmark inquest finding last month, Walker said social media contributed to Molly’s death, saying she “died of an act of self-harm while suffering from depression and negative effects of online content”.

The notice preventing future deaths was sent to Instagram owner Meta and Pinterest, as well as two other platforms Molly interacted with before her death: Snapchat and Twitter. The report was also sent to Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan and Ofcom, the UK communications regulator overseeing the online safety bill. All parties receiving the report must respond by December 8 with details of the action they propose to take, or explain why they are not taking any action.

Walker said in the report that the government should consider creating an independent body to monitor social media content and should consider legislation to protect children from harmful online content. The Online Safety Bill, due to resume its progress in Parliament, imposes a duty of care on tech platforms to protect children from harmful content. Walker said platforms should also consider self-regulation.

“While regulation would be a matter for government, I see no reason why the platforms themselves wouldn’t want to consider self-regulation,” he wrote.

Responding to the report, Molly’s father, Ian Russell, urged social media platforms to think ‘long and hard’ about whether their services were safe for children and to take action before the bill was introduced. on online safety.

“We urge social media companies to heed the coroner’s words and not drag their feet waiting for legislation and regulation, but rather take a proactive approach to self-regulation to make their platforms safer for their customers. young users,” he said. “They should think long and hard about whether their platforms are youth-friendly.”

Russell added that the online safety bill should be introduced “as soon as possible”. Referring to the systems that repeatedly pushed harmful content to his daughter before her death, Russell called on tech bosses to face stiffer criminal penalties “if they fail to take action to curb the algorithmic amplification of destructive and extremely dangerous content or fail to remove it quickly”.

William Perrin, internet security expert and trustee of UK charity Carnegie, said Walker’s report contained recommendations that were mostly covered by the bill, such as giving Ofcom a role in monitoring the how platforms deal with harmful content. However, Perrin said action has still not been taken, despite numerous interventions like Walker’s.

“This is yet another report, and an important report, that recommends action against harmful content,” he said. “But the government has not yet taken this step. It’s all very well to say that the Online Safety Bill will do these things, but it hasn’t been implemented yet.

Beeban Kidron, an online peer and child safety campaigner, said she did not support the concept of separate platforms for children and adults, but added: “The Coroner is absolutely right. to say that a child who goes online should be offered an age-appropriate experience.”

Merry Varney, who led the Russell family inquest team at law firm Leigh Day, said: ‘The decision by HM Walker’s senior coroner to release this report to both government and media companies social is welcome, and measures to prevent further harm to children must be taken urgently.

Donelan said his “thoughts will be with Molly’s family” when the bill returns to Parliament shortly and the coroner’s report matches the provisions of the legislation.

She added: ‘What happened to Molly is heartbreaking which is why I am reviewing the coroner’s report into her death so carefully. Its recommendations match what our world-leading Online Safety Bill already offers, which is an important step forward.

A Meta spokesperson said: “We agree that regulation is needed and we have already worked on many of the recommendations outlined in this report, including new parental supervision tools that allow parents to see who their teens are following. and limit the time they spend on Instagram. »

Pinterest said the coroner’s report would be “reviewed carefully”, while Twitter and parent company Snapchat confirmed they had received the report. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been approached for comment.

In the UK, the youth suicide charity Papyrus can be contacted on 0800 068 4141 or email [email protected] In the UK and Ireland, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by email at [email protected] or [email protected] In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the Lifeline crisis helpline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines are available at You can contact mental health charity Mind by calling 0300 123 3393 or visiting