These questions were brought into focus by the inquest into the death of 14-year-old Molly Russell. And if there was one point during the two-week hearing when the case for tougher online regulation became overwhelming, it was during Meta executive Elizabeth Lagone’s testimony.
The head of health and wellbeing policy at Mark Zuckerberg’s company was taken through a selection of the Instagram posts the teenager had viewed in the six months before her death – deeming many of them to be “safe” for children to view. It was not an opinion shared by many in the room at North London coroner’s court.
Molly, from north-west London, died in 2017 after viewing extensive amounts of online content related to suicide, depression, self-harm and anxiety. In what the NSPCC described as a global first, the senior coroner said social media had contributed to Molly’s death, ruling that that Molly had died from “an act of self-harm while suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content”.