The influence of social networks on young people and their responsibility is in question across the Channel.
This Friday, British justice questioned the role of the content of these platforms in the suicide of a teenager.
Molly Russell, who suffered from depression, killed herself in November 2017 when she was just 14 years old.
Trying to understand her gesture, her relatives discovered that she had been exposed on social networks, mainly Instagram and Pinterest, to a lot of content evoking suicide, depression and self-harm.
A legal procedure called "inquest", intended to determine the causes of his death, ended Friday in London after ten days of hearing.
"Content that may have influenced it negatively"
The contents seen by the young girl "were not safe" and "should never have been accessible to a child", affirmed in his conclusions Andrew Walker, the "coroner" in charge of the procedure.
Rather than qualifying her death as suicide, he therefore considered that the young girl "died of an act of self-harm, while suffering from depression and the negative effects of content seen on the Internet".
Molly “has been exposed to content that may have negatively influenced her”.
Some of this content was “particularly explicit tending to describe self-harm and suicide as an inevitable consequence of an illness from which it could not cure”, and “without any counterpoint”, he still judged.
The workings of social media algorithms, which tend to show users content similar to what they've seen previously, "definitely had a negative effect on Molly", he insisted.
Apologies from Pinterest and Meta
During the hearings, representatives from Pinterest and Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram) came to apologize for the girl's death, acknowledging that she had had access to content that she should not have seen. .
They also highlighted their efforts to moderate the content posted on their platforms.
The death of the young girl and her parents' fight to have social networks recognized as being responsible have reignited the debate on the influence of these platforms in the United Kingdom and on their content moderation actions, which are based above all on the self-regulation.
An “online safety” law, supposed to strike a balance between freedom of expression and the protection of users, in particular minors, is under consideration in the British Parliament.
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