UK News Molly Russell: Coroner demands access to information from her social media accounts

01:05  21 november  2019
01:05  21 november  2019 Source:   inews.co.uk

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The coroner investigating the death of Molly Russell is writing to social media companies demanding they hand over information from her accounts . Molly was 14 when she ended her own life in 2017 after viewing graphic content about suicide and self harm. At a pre-inquest hearing, coroner Andrew

THE DAD of tragic teen Molly Russell has not been allowed to access her iphone and social media accounts Molly Russell 's father believes her social media account holds some of the clues behind her The coroner is now writing to Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Apple demanding they hand

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The coroner investigating the death of Molly Russell has said he will demand social media companies hand over information from her accounts.

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In 2017 Molly Russell, ended her own life after viewing graphic content about suicide and self harm. She was 14.

At a pre-inquest hearing, coroner Andrew Walker, revealed he is to write to Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp calling for the material.

It is thought to be the first time a coroner has made such an order.


Molly's father Ian Russell speaking at the NSPCC's How Safe Are Our Children? conference in London (Photo: Helen William/PA)

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Social media regulation debate. Image copyright PA. Image caption Molly Russell died in 2017 after seeing content about suicide on social media . The family of a teenager who took her own life after viewing material about suicide and self-harm on social media has been refused funding to pay for

Social media and tech giants are to be asked to hand over information on Molly Russell ’s accountsGETTY IMAGESNLINE. Molly ’s father, Ian, said he had tried for a month to persuade Apple to access the data held on her iPhone and iPod Touch. In January 2017 he went to Apple’s flagship

Mr Walker said the inquest needed to find out whether the cumulative effect of the material had "overwhelmed" Molly.

After Molly’s death, her father, Ian, found large amounts of graphic material about self-harm and suicide on her Instagram account. He also found similar content on her Pinterest login.

Mr Russell, from Harrow, north-west London, has been campaigning for social media platforms to be more proactive in this area.

In June, he called for a change in the law to allow grieving parents the ability to view their children's phones after death.

He asked for parents to be given clear legal rights to their children's devices and online accounts.


In October Instagram pledged that it would remove images, drawings and cartoons showing methods of self-harm or suicide.

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The social media platform has said it is "consulting further with mental health bodies and academics to understand what more we can do to protect and support our community". Molly Russel 's father Ian is raising awareness of harmful content on social media (PA).

Mr Russell said that while the Facebook-owned app’s move was “sincere” he said managers needed to act more quickly. The Russell family believe some of the blame for her death lies with the companies.

Jess Elliott, the barrister representing the Russells said that the platforms provided access to a “world of self harm and suicide” which "normalised" the behaviour.

Pinterest, which Molly also used, was at the hearing and said it was "extremely keen to do everything it can to assist".

A spokesperson from Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp said: “We haven’t been contacted by the Coroner or law enforcement. When we receive the request, we will prioritise it, and promptly respond to the Coroner.”

When asked if that meant they would hand over the data Facebook declined to comment further.

Snapchat was contacted for a comment.


The Russell family said it was “disappointed” that police officers investigated Molly’s devices had not attended the hearing.

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Media captionAfter Molly Russell took her own life, her family discovered distressing material about suicide on her Instagram account . Social media firms could be banned if they fail to remove harmful content, the health secretary has warned. Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, Matt Hancock

At a previous hearing the police said they had access to what amounted to tens of thousands of pages of data from an iPhone and an iPod Touch.

However, despite initially saying that the data could be handed over to the family the police are now unable to do so because of a legal issue.

A date for the start of the full inquest has not yet been set.

Q & A

What is the likelihood of the companies handing over the data?

Yair Cohen, social media specialist lawyer at Cohen Davis told i that there should not be a problem with social media platforms handing over the data. When someone dies data protection laws no longer apply to them.

The data handed over by the social media platforms will include the date, the time, the IP address and sometimes the type of mobile device, the location and the logins and logouts on the account.

What about private messages sent from Molly to another person?

If there are private messages sent outside of the UK then access to these could compromise the person the message was sent to under data protection law.

In this case a court order would need to be obtained in the said country so as to adhere to data protection laws. If the person who received the message was in the UK or Europe then they would need to be notified and given the opportunity to allow or refuse the release of the messages.

With social media still a relatively new technology many laws are being written as new cases emerge.

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