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

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

Schoolgirl Molly Russell had access to 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”.

He said the material his daughter had been exposed to on the internet was “appalling”, adding that he was “definitely shocked at how easily accessible” it was on a public platform for people over the age of 13.

At North London Coroner’s Court on Wednesday, Russell questioned how his 14-year-old daughter knew “how to get into this state” before her death, adding: “Whatever steps are taken (by social media companies) , is clearly not enough.”

Molly Russell's father Ian Russell

Molly Russell’s father Ian Russell (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

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

After giving evidence from the witness box, Mr Russell was taken through his evidence, which read: “I also looked briefly at Molly’s YouTube account and saw a… pattern – lots of normal teenage ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ but a correspondingly high number of disturbing posts about 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’s just the bleakest of worlds. It’s not a world I recognize.

“It’s a ghetto of the electronic world.”

Russell said the “algorithms” then recommended similar content.

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

Mr Russell replied: “Absolutely.”

Russell added that he looked again at Instagram in August this year after changes had been made by Meta, but that he still found “atrocious content”.

The inquest heard that among the “hundreds of common connections a teenager would have”, there were more than 40 accounts she followed and 10 accounts following Molly that were “related in some way to anxiety, depression, self-harm or suicide”.

Russell told the inquest that he and Molly’s mother Janet were “absolutely shocked at how horrific, graphic, harmful it was and worrying that it was readily available on a public platform for people aged 13 and over”.

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

Walker continued to take the 59-year-old through his evidence, where he said he had believed Molly’s change in behavior was down to “normal teenage mood swings”.

Russell gave evidence to the coroner and confirmed that his statement was correct.

It said: “The whole immediate family noticed a change in Molly’s behavior during the last 12 months of her life.

“Molly became more withdrawn and spent more time alone in her room, but she still happily contributed to family life. Molly also found it difficult to fall asleep and it seemed that she was often the last of us awake.

“Like most of us, Molly often had her phone with her, although we had a strict no-phones-at-the-dining-table rule at home. She used it and the iPod Touch for a whole range of things.

“I knew Molly had an Instagram account and a Twitter account as I also had accounts on those platforms and we ‘follow’ each other, as did other members of the family.

“Molly closed her Twitter account which we all followed and it was only after her death that I found out she had opened another account on Twitter.

“We talked about risk from strangers online, not giving out personal information, only sharing photos with friends, online bullying – that kind of thing.

“We thought Molly’s changed behavior in 2017 was just a reflection of normal teenage mood swings, coinciding with puberty, and although we were concerned, we weren’t overly concerned.

“With the benefit of hindsight, I can recall some cases that didn’t seem so worrisome at the time, but take on more significance now.”

The coroner asked him about a conversation the couple had in the months before her death.

The inquest heard that Russell spoke to Molly about how she was feeling while the pair were driving together in September 2017, but she “brushed it off”.

Giving evidence, he said: “I remember talking to Molly and asking her about the concerns we had as parents.

“They were the kind of things we might have had with her sisters or other parents would have had with their children around the world.

“I asked her… to see if she would open up about anything that might bother her.

“She brushed it off and seemed unfazed by the question.”

After telling the court what he had seen when he found his daughter after her death, Russell said: “I thought to myself, how does someone who is 14 know how to get into this state and how does someone who is 14 know how to end her life so effectively?”

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