August 24, 2019
Technology

Instagram to remove all graphic self-harm images following death of British teeneger

The parents of Molly Russell, 14, said she committed suicide in 2017 after she viewed distressing material about depression and suicide.

Her family saw the posts when they inspected her Instagram use after her death, and concluded the social media giant was partly to blame.

“I have no doubt that Instagram helped kill my daughter,” her father, Ian Russell, said in an interview with the BBC.

Instagram decided on the change after a public outcry following Ms Russell’s suicide. Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said the company has not done enough to keep people safe.

“We are not where we need to be on self-harm and suicide, and we need to do more to protect the most vulnerable,” Mr Mosseri said in a meeting with UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“We will get better and we are committed to finding and removing this content at scale.”

Mr Mosseri said Instagram would be removing the images, “as quickly as we can, responsibly”. Instagram currently relies on users to report graphic images of self-harm.

Instagram and Facebook announce sweeping changes
In dual press releases, Instagram and Facebook, which owns Instagram, announced changes following talks with experts and academics.

In addition to banning images of self-harm, Instagram said it will not promote non-graphic self-harm-related content like healed scars or through hashtags or the explore tab, though they’re not removing the content entirely as not to “stigmatise or isolate people who may be in distress and posting self-harm-related content as a cry for help”.

“I might have an image of a scar or say, ‘I’m 30 days clean,’ and that’s an important way to tell my story,” Mr Mosseri said.

“That kind of content can still live on the site but the next change is that it won’t show up in any recommendation services so it will be harder to find.”

Instagram also vowed to focus on getting resources to people posting and searching for self-harm-related content, and to continue consulting with experts to see if there is anything further the platform can do.

Mr Russell was buoyed by Instagram’s commitment, and in an interview with the BBC called on other social media to follow suit.

“It is now time for other social media platforms to take action to recognise the responsibility they too have to their users if the internet is to become a safe place for young and vulnerable people.”

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