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British Politicians Call For Social Media ‘Purge’ Following Teen Suicide

Governments around the world are becoming increasingly vocal of their concerns for the wellbeing of Internet users and the responsibility that social media platforms and internet companies have to ensure the safety of users. If you are affected by anything mentioned in this article, please follow the links to our various support services.

U.K Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, has called for social media platforms to ‘purge’ the Internet of harmful content that promotes self-harm and suicide following the tragic suicide of teenager Mollie Russell. The MP has already written to Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Apple, Google and Facebook, who own Instagram, telling them they have a duty to act and that urgent action is needed.

“I want to work with internet and social media providers to ensure the action is as effective as possible. However, let me be clear that we will introduce new legislation where needed.”

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

Mollie Russell’s father, Ian Russel told reporters that Mollie, 14, had gone to bed in a good mood and showed no signs of any serious mental health issues, but had decided to take her own life during the night after looking at self-harm images on Instagram. Speaking about the content that his daughter was exposed to, Russell said he felt that social media companies should be doing more to protect young and vulnerable users from this type of harmful content. He told one reporter that he believed Instagram had “helped kill my daughter.”

“We are pleased that the Health Secretary has taken action to write to tech companies to ask for the type of content that Molly saw to be removed.”

Ian Russell, Father of Molly Russell

His calls are also echoed by the Minister of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Margot James MP, who this week outlined the contents of an up-coming government white paper on digital self-harm and suicide that could lead to possible changes in legislation – potentially bringing social media companies into line with new government guidelines.

“We will introduce laws that force social media platforms to remove illegal content, and to prioritize the protection of users beyond their commercial interests.”

Margot James , Minister of State for Digital and Creative Industries

Molly Russell’s death is among a number of teen, and pre-teen suicides around the world that have prompted governments to undertake research into the effects of social media on young people’s wellbeing and mental health. One recent study, undertaken by the University of Connecticut, looked at anxiety levels among young adults and found that more time spent using social media was associated with greater symptoms of dispositional anxiety.

If you are worried about your child’s internet use or need help with any type of online negativity, we can help. Visit our Cyberbullying and Online Abuse Help Center or learn how we can help you through our Total Access Support. For further details about Cybersmile and our work, please explore the suggestions below:

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