British schoolgirl Molly Russell died in November 2017 while suffering from the "negative effects of online content", a senior coroner has concluded.

Coroner Andrew Walker said online material viewed by the 14-year-old on sites such as Instagram and Pinterest "was not safe" and "shouldn't have been available for a child to see".

Molly's father Ian Russell said he hopes the conclusion will be an "important step in bringing about much-needed change".

Mr Russell asked Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg to "just listen... and then do something about it".

Welling up as he concluded a press conference, Mr Russell's voice broke as he said: "Thank you, Molly, for being my daughter. Thank you."

Molly Russell (Photo credit: The Molly Russell Foundation, UK)

Concluding it would not be "safe" to rule Molly's cause of death as suicide, Mr Walker said the teenager "died from an act of self-harm while suffering depression and the negative effects of online content".

At North London Coroner's Court, he said: "At the time that these sites were viewed by Molly, some of these sites were not safe as they allowed access to adult content that should not have been available for a 14-year-old child to see.

"The way that the platforms operated meant that Molly had access to images, video clips and text concerning or concerned with self-harm, suicide or that were otherwise negative or depressing in nature.

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"The platform operated in such a way using algorithms as to result, in some circumstances, of binge periods of images, video clips and text - some of which were selected and provided without Molly requesting them.

"These binge periods, if involving this content, are likely to have had a negative effect on Molly."

The inquest was told Molly accessed material from the "ghetto of the online world" before her death in November 2017, with her family arguing sites such as Pinterest and Instagram recommended accounts or posts that "promoted" suicide and self-harm.

Ian Russell (centre), father of Molly Russell, speaks to the media outside the coroners court

Meta executive Elizabeth Lagone said she believes posts seen by Molly, which her family say "encouraged" suicide, were safe.

Pinterest's Judson Hoffman told the inquest the site was "not safe" when Molly used it.

Online safety campaigners at the children's charity NSPCC said Molly died after suffering from "negative effects of online content" and it should "send shockwaves through Silicon Valley".

Out of 16,300 posts Molly saved, shared or liked on Instagram in the six months before her death, 2,100 were related to depression, self-harm or suicide, the inquest was told.

The court was played 17 clips the teenager viewed on the site - prompting "the greatest of warning" from the coroner.

Continuing his conclusions, Mr Walker said: "It is likely that the above material viewed by Molly, already suffering with a depressive illness and vulnerable due to her age, affected her mental health in a negative way and contributed to her death in a more than minimal way."

The coroner said yesterday he intends to issue a Prevention of Future Deaths (PFD) notice, which will recommend actions on how to stop a repeat of the Molly Russell case.

The Russell family's lawyer, Oliver Sanders KC, asked the coroner to send the PFD to Instagram, Pinterest, media regulator Ofcom and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

In a statement to RTÉ News, Meta, which has its European headquarters in Dublin, said its thoughts were with the Russell family and everyone affected by her death.

A spokesperson said: "We're committed to ensuring that Instagram is a positive experience for everyone, particularly teenagers, and we will carefully consider the coroner's full report when he provides it.

"We'll continue our work with the world's leading independent experts to help ensure that the changes we make offer the best possible protection and support for teens."

The company also said it never allowed people to encourage or promote suicide or self-harm on its platforms and had updated its policies since 2019 to keep current with the challenges teens face online.

Additional reporting Sinead Crowley

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