Molly Russell investigation to examine role of social media algorithms in teenage death

Molly Russell’s family’s five-year wait for answers is set to come to an end as an inquest finally examines whether algorithms used by social media companies to keep users hooked contributed to her death.

Molly, from Harrow, north-west London, is known to have viewed material relating to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide before she ended her life in November 2017, prompting her family to campaign for better internet safety.

Previous hearings heard how the 14-year-old engaged in tens of thousands of social media posts in the six months before her death, including content that “raised concern”.

The inquest into his death was delayed in March after thousands of pages of new evidence about his internet history were submitted.

In the last six months of her life, Molly took to Instagram posts about 130 times a day on average

(Provided/AP)

Senior executives of social media giants Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, and Pinterest, are due to give evidence in person at North London Coroner’s Court in Barnet.

The court has already heard how on Twitter, Molly tweeted or retweeted 460 times, liked 4,100 tweets, followed 116 accounts and had 42 followers.

She was a much more active Pinterest user, with more than 15,000 engagements, including 3,000 saves, in the last six months of her life.

Molly didn’t have a Facebook profile.

But in the last six months of her life, she viewed Instagram posts about 130 times a day on average.

This included 3,500 shares during this period, as well as 11,000 likes and 5,000 saves.

Coroner Andrew Walker previously challenged social media companies to “help make the internet a safer place”, before adding “the sooner the parties address this issue, the better the solutions we will have. on time”.

A pre-inquiry review in September 2020 learned how a huge volume of “pretty appalling” Instagram posts had been leaked to the inquest.

Since his daughter’s death, Molly’s father, Ian Russell, has campaigned for reform of social media platforms and established the Molly Rose Foundation in her memory.

The investigation, which could last up to two weeks, is due to begin on Tuesday.

Sharon D. Cole