Prince William's message of support to Molly Russell's dad after her inquest ends

William, the Prince of Wales, shared a message praising the father of Molly Russell, Ian Russell, after a coroner ruled the girl’s death was connected to exposure to harmful content on social media. Molly lost her life in November 2017 at the age of 14, prompting her family to campaign for better internet safety. A senior coroner concluded earlier today that the schoolgirl died after suffering from “negative effects of online content”.

Commenting on the latest developments around Molly’s case, Prince William, who has previously been involved in advocating for online safety, posted a message from his and the Princess of Wales’ joint Twitter account.

The tweet read: “No parent should ever have to endure what Ian Russell and his family have been through. They have been so incredibly brave.

“Online safety for our children and young people needs to be a prerequisite, not an afterthought.”

Within one hour, the message attracted thousands of likes and hundreds of comments about William’s sensitivity to the issue.

Speaking earlier on Friday, Molly’s father Ian Russell said the coroner’s conclusions are “an important step in bringing about much-needed change.”

He said his message to Instagram – and Facebook – boss Mark Zuckerberg would be: “Just to listen. Listen to the people that use his platform, listen to the conclusions the coroner gave at this inquest and then do something about it.”

Molly died after engaging with 2,100 self-harm or suicide-related posts over a period of six months, an inquest at North London Coroner’s Court heard.

Despite appearing a “normal, healthy girl” flourishing at school, she was suffering from depression and vulnerable, the court was told.

The ruling has been described as a global first after concluding that content Molly was allowed to view by tech companies contributed to her death.

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”.

Concluding it would not be “safe” to rule Molly’s cause of death was 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 on Friday, 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.

“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.”

READ MORE: Molly Russell died by ‘self-harm while suffering from depression’

Commenting after the inquest, Professor Abhilash Nair, from the University of Exeter Law School, said: “We urgently need tighter regulation of social media to protect children. Tech firms cannot be allowed to continue to have the easy ride they’ve had until now, where they can act with impunity.

“Children make up one in three internet users. They have the right to take advantage of the many benefits of being online, but the practically non-existent laws governing the liability of social media platforms have consistently failed our children and it is now time for change.”

Following the landmark ruling, it was stated an Online Safety Bill amendment will be brought forward to help bereaved parents access information about social media companies.

Baroness Beeban Kidron said she will table a change to the proposed legislation in the House of Lords after a coroner concluded content viewed on the internet contributed to the schoolgirl’s death.

Speaking at a press conference in Barnet after the conclusion of the inquest on Friday, crossbench peer Baroness Kidron said: “I think it was historic – nothing short of historic – the way that the conclusion was held.

“And we do know, and I’m afraid my inbox in Parliament is full of people who have lost children sadly, and many of them struggle to get the information that they want, to get the access, to get that transparency.

“And I will be bringing forward an amendment to the Online Safety Bill in the House of Lords that seeks to make it easier for bereaved parents to access information from social media companies.”

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Mr Russell added later: “We have heard a senior Meta executive describe this deadly stream of content the platform’s algorithms pushed to Molly as ‘safe’ and not contravening the platform’s policies.

“If this demented trail of life-sucking content was safe, my daughter Molly would probably still be alive and instead of being a bereaved family of four, there would be five of us looking forward to a life full of purpose and promise that lay ahead for our adorable Molly.

“It’s time the toxic corporate culture at the heart of the world’s biggest social media platform changed. It’s time for the Government’s Online Safety Bill to urgently deliver its long-promised legislation. It’s time to protect our innocent young people instead of allowing platforms to prioritise their profits by monetising their misery.”

A Meta spokeswoman said the company is “committed to ensuring that Instagram is a positive experience for everyone, particularly teenagers” and will “carefully consider” the coroner’s full report.

Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC, said: “This is social media’s big tobacco moment. For the first time globally, it has been ruled content a child was allowed and even encouraged to see by tech companies contributed to their death. The world will be watching their response.”

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