Molly Russell’s father calls for independent regulation of online platforms

Ian Russell said ‘the age of self-regulation on internet platforms must be ended for the sake and safety of our children’.

Andrew Quinn
Friday 07 October 2022 10:25 BST
The father of schoolgirl Molly Russell, who died while suffering from “the negative effects of online content”, has called for independent regulation of online platforms (PA)
The father of schoolgirl Molly Russell, who died while suffering from “the negative effects of online content”, has called for independent regulation of online platforms (PA)

The father of schoolgirl Molly Russell, who died while suffering from “the negative effects of online content”, has called for independent regulation of online platforms.

Senior coroner Andrew Walker said material viewed by Molly on sites like Instagram and Pinterest before her death in November 2017 “was not safe” and “should not have been available for a 14-year-old child to see”.

Ian Russell told BBC’s Today programme on Friday: “The age of self-regulation on internet platforms must be ended for the sake and safety of our children.

“The politicians have said that they’ll do something about it but (the Online Safety Bill) still hasn’t made it out of the House of Commons.

The most important thing as a family is to find a way to cross the generations, so that the parents can keep a channel of communication going with their children

Ian Russell

“I think it’s a very complicated Bill. It’s a whole new form of regulation. It’s full of legal clauses and it’s hard to read. I think people are being very cautious.

“It’s really important that something which is illegal in the offline world must be illegal – and we must be better protected – when it’s found in the online world.”

Mr Russell said he has been assured by Michelle Donelan, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, that the Online Safety Bill will get a third reading in the House of Commons before Christmas.

He said: “She wanted to reassure me that the Government took this Bill very seriously, it wasn’t going to be put on the back foot, it wasn’t going to be watered down.

“In fact, they were going to strengthen measures to protect children online.”

Mr Russell also urged parents to “be direct” and talk to their children if they have worries about them.

He said: “It’s important to talk. The most important thing as a family is to find a way to cross the generations, so that the parents can keep a channel of communication going with their children.

“That transition that happens, from being a child to being an adult, those teenage years, are some of the hardest years that we all live though. It’s really important to not try and push anything that’s a wedge between the generations and keep talking. Talking about mental health, suicide, if you need to.

“If you have worries about a child, I’ve learnt since Molly’s death, don’t keep them to yourself, be direct and talk to your child about it.”

Mr Russell said his family had no idea about Molly’s depression, and that “she didn’t seem like a social media person.”

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