Molly Russell: What did we learn from the inquest?

The inquest heard apologies from Meta and Pinterest about the content Molly viewed online.

30 September 2022

The family of Molly Russell’s five-year wait for answers has finally ended as an inquest heard how the teenager viewed suicide and self-harm content from the “ghetto of the online world” before her death in November 2017.

The head of health and wellbeing at Instagram’s parent company Meta and the head of community operations at Pinterest have both apologised for content Molly viewed on the platforms during the proceedings.

Here, the PA news agency looks at what we have learned during the 14-year-old’s inquest.

Molly Russell inquest
Elizabeth Lagone, Meta’s head of health and wellbeing (Beresford Hodge/PA)

– Who gave evidence from the witness box at the inquest?

Molly Russell’s father, Ian, delivered a pen portrait of his daughter, before giving evidence.

The head of health and wellbeing at Meta, Elizabeth Lagone and Pinterest’s head of community operations, Judson Hoffman, also appeared in person at the inquest.

Other witnesses included child psychiatrist Dr Navin Venugopal, Molly’s headteacher Sue Maguire and deputy headteacher Rebecca Cozens.

Molly Russell inquest
Molly Russell’s father Ian Russell arrives at Barnet Coroner’s Court (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

– What did Ian Russell say during his evidence?

Ian Russell said the content his daughter had been exposed to was “hideous”, adding that Molly had accessed material from the “ghetto of the online world”.

Mr Russell also said “whatever steps have been taken (by social media companies), it’s clearly not enough”, adding: “I believe social media helped kill my daughter.”

– What did Pinterest’s senior executive tell the inquest?

Pinterest’s head of community operations, Judson Hoffman, conceded the platform was “not safe” when Molly Russell used it, adding that he “deeply regrets” posts the teenager viewed.

Mr Hoffman said Pinterest is “safe but imperfect” as he admitted harmful content still “likely exists” on the site.

Molly Russell inquest
Judson Hoffman (James MAnning/PA)

– What did Meta’s head of health and wellbeing tell the inquest?

Elizabeth Lagone, a senior executive at Meta, defended Instagram and said posts described by the Russell family as “encouraging” suicide or self-harm were safe.

The senior executive told the inquest she thought it was “safe for people to be able to express themselves”, but conceded a number of posts shown to the court would have violated Instagram’s policies.

– What did the child psychiatrist say?

Dr Navin Venugopal said he was “not able to sleep well” after viewing Instagram content viewed by Molly Russell.

The witness told the inquest he saw no “positive benefit” to the material viewed by the teenager before she died.

– What did the headteacher of Molly Russell’s school tell the inquest?

Sue Maguire, headteacher at Hatch End High School, said social media causes “no end of issues” as it is “almost impossible to keep track” of it.

She told the inquest social media creates “challenges… we simply didn’t have 10 years ago or 15 years ago”.

Technology Stock – Social Media

– What was said about Molly Russell’s activity on Instagram?

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

The court was played 17 clips the teenager viewed on Instagram – prompting “the greatest of warning” from Coroner Andrew Walker to those present.

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

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

– What was said about Molly Russell’s activity on Pinterest?

The court was told Molly created two “boards” on Pinterest of interest to the inquest – with one called Stay Strong, which tended to “have more positive” material pinned to it, while the other, with “much more downbeat, negative content”, was called Nothing to Worry About.

Molly saved 469 pins to the Nothing to Worry About board and 155 pins to the Stay Strong board.

The inquest was told Pinterest sent emails to the 14-year-old such as “10 depression pins you might like” and “new ideas for you in depression”.

– What was said about Molly Russell’s activity on Twitter?

The inquest heard Molly reached out to celebrities for help on Twitter, including YouTube star Salice Rose and actress Lili Reinhart.

The court was told the teenager used an anonymous account to send tweets to celebrities.

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.