Molly Russell inquest: Teenager had accessed material from ‘ghetto of the online world’, inquest told

Schoolgirl Molly Russell had accessed material from the “ghetto of the online world”, her father has told an inquest.

Ian Russell said his daughter received emails from social media giant Pinterest “promoting depressing content”, including “18 depression pins you might like” and “new ideas for you in depression”.

He said the material his daughter had been exposed to on the internet was “hideous”, adding he was “definitely shocked how … readily available” it was on a public platform for people over the age of 13.

At North London Coroner’s Court yesterday, Mr Russell questioned how his 14-year-old daughter knew “how to get into this state” before her death, adding: “Whatever steps have been taken [by social media companies], it’s clearly not enough.”

Molly Russell's father Ian Russell (centre), mother Janet Russell (right) and her sister (left) arrive at Barnet Coroner's Court in north London on the first day of the inquest into her death. Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Molly, from Harrow, north-west London, is known to have viewed material linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide on social media before ending her life in November 2017, prompting her family to campaign for better internet safety.

Giving evidence from the witness box, Mr Russell was taken through his witness statement, which read: “I also looked briefly at Molly’s YouTube account and saw a … pattern – many normal teenage ‘likes’ and ’follows’, but a similar high number of disturbing posts concerning anxiety, depression, self harm and suicide.

“On the family computer I saw that Molly continued to receive emails after her death from another social media platform, Pinterest.

“I was shocked to see the subject lines of the emails clearly promoting depressing content.”

He added: “It is just the bleakest of worlds. It is not a world I recognise.

“It is a ghetto of the online world.”

Mr Russell said the “algorithms” then recommended similar content.

He was taken through a series of social media posts liked by Molly on Instagram prior to her death, which Oliver Sanders KC described as a “litany of self hate”.

Mr Sanders later said the posts saved by Molly on Pinterest were “romanticising self harm”, which were something for people to “keep to themselves”.

Mr Russell responded: “Absolutely. Even though I have seen these before, seeing them again still affects me now. And this is just the 5th of September. This is just a fraction of what Molly was seeing on a daily basis.”

Coroner Andrew Walker then asked Mr Russell if it was fair to describe it as “a world of despair”.

Mr Russell responded: “Absolutely.”

Mr Russell said he looked again on Instagram in August this year after changes had been made by Meta, but still found “horrific content”.

The inquest heard that among the “hundreds of usual connections a teenager would have”, there were more than 40 accounts that she followed and ten accounts that followed Molly that “were connected, in some way, to anxiety, depression, self harm or suicide”.

Mr Russell told the inquest he and Molly’s mother Janet were “definitely shocked how hideous, graphic, harmful it was and concerning that it was readily available on a public platform for people who are 13 and above”.

According to Instagram’s guidelines, the website requires someone to be at least 13 to create an account in some jurisdictions.


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