Pinterest says ‘sorry’ over Molly Russell death after seeing content about suicide

Pinterest says ‘sorry’ over Molly Russell death: Tech giant boss tells of ‘regret’ that 14-year-old girl was able to view self-harm and suicide posts on site – after her father told inquest: ‘Social media helped kill my daughter’

  • Molly was sent content with headings such as ’10 depression pins you might like’ 
  • Her father, Ian, giving evidence, said social media was a ‘risk’ to ‘children’s lives’ 
  • Schoolgirl used anonymous Twitter account to reach out to celebrities for help
  • For free, confidential support contact Samaritans on 116 123 or visit their website

A social media executive today said they were ‘sorry’ Molly Russell was able to view content about self-harm and suicide on their platform as her grieving family watched on in court. 

The 14-year-old, from Harrow, northwest London, researched disturbing content online before taking her own life in November 2017. Today her father, Ian, told her inquest: ‘I believe that social media helped kill my daughter’. 

This morning, Pinterest’s head of community operations, Judson Hoffman, was quizzed on the type of content Molly was exposed to on the platform. 

North London Coroners’ Court was shown two streams of content the schoolgirl saw, comparing the material she viewed earlier in her use of the platform and in the months closer to her death.

While the earlier stream of content included a wide variety of content, the latter focused on depression, self-harm and suicide.

Molly Russell, from Harrow, northwest London, researched disturbing content online before taking her own life in November 2017

Molly Russell, from Harrow, northwest London, researched disturbing content online before taking her own life in November 2017

Asked by Oliver Sanders KC, the lawyers representing Molly’s family, if he agreed that the type of content had changed, Mr Hoffman said: ‘I do and it’s important to note, and I deeply regret that she was able to access some of the content shown.’

The inquest heard Pinterest sent emails to her with headings such as ’10 depression pins you might like’ and ‘depression recovery, depressed girl and more pins trending on Pinterest’.

The emails also contained images which Mr Sanders questioned whether Mr Hoffman believed they were ‘safe for children to see’.

Mr Hoffman replied: ‘So, I want to be careful here because of the guidance that we have seen. I will say that this is the type of content that we wouldn’t like anyone spending a lot of time with.’

Mr Sanders said ‘particularly children’ would find it ‘very difficult … to make sense’ of the content, to which Mr Hoffman replied: ‘Yes.’

The lawyer asked: ‘You’ve said you regret, are you sorry it happened?’

Mr Hoffman replied: ‘I am sorry it happened’.

The inquest also heard how Molly used an anonymous Twitter account to reach out to celebrities and influencers for help. .

She sent tweets to JK Rowling, American actress Lili Reinhart and YouTube star Salice Rose, with one saying: ‘I can’t do it any more.’

Today her father, Ian, told her inquest: 'I believe that social media helped kill my daughter'

Today her father, Ian, told her inquest: ‘I believe that social media helped kill my daughter’

Ian Russell was taken through the posts from the witness box today, where he said: ‘I believe social media helped kill my daughter.’

He said the messages sent to high profile figures were ‘particularly prevalent on Twitter’.

Mr Russell told North London Coroner’s Court that harmful and ‘normal’ online content would have been ‘conflated’ in a 14-year-old’s mind.

He was asked about his thoughts on the effect of Molly accessing ‘harmless’ content on social media platforms, such as posts about fashion and pop music, by Oliver Sanders KC.

Mr Russell told the inquest that ‘digital technology can be brilliant’, but the difference between the two types of content ‘would be very much blurred’ for his daughter.

One tweet, sent to Ms Reinhart by Molly, which was read to the court today, said: 'I can't take it any more'

One tweet, sent to Ms Reinhart by Molly, which was read to the court today, said: ‘I can’t take it any more’

Giving evidence in the witness box today, Mr Russell said: ‘I believe social media helped kill my daughter.

‘I believe that too much of that content is still there and I believe there is a lack of transparency.

‘Children shouldn’t be on a platform that presents a risk to their lives.’

Mr Russell was taken through tweets to celebrities where his daughter said she ‘just can’t take it’.

One tweet, sent to Ms Reinhart by Molly, which was read to the court today, said: ‘I can’t take it any more.

‘I need to reach out to someone, I just can’t take it.’

Mr Russell said: ‘It’s exactly that type of message … that was particularly prevalent on Twitter.

‘On the Twitter platform… she reached out to celebrities with thousands or millions of followers who wouldn’t even notice one small tweet from someone like Molly.

‘She was never really going to get a response.’

Other tweets, directed at YouTuber Ms Rose, said: ‘I can’t do it any more. I give up.’

Another said: ‘I don’t fit in this world. Everyone is better off without me.’

The court was told these tweets were sent a few months before the teenager died.

Mr Russell said the schoolgirl seemed to be ‘back to her normal self’ shortly before she died.

The 59-year-old said his daughter seemed ‘excited’ about things in the future and that in the two months before her death he thought the ‘passing phase she was going through had passed’. 

The inquest, which is expected to last up to two weeks, continues. 

For free, confidential support contact Samaritans on 116 123 or visit their website   

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