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Parents of teen who died by suicide sue Meta over simulated hanging video they say she copied

The simulated hanging video circulated for more than a year after the girl’s death

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 15 December 2022 20:01 GMT
Toney and Brandy Roberts, the parents of 14-year-old Englyn Roberts, who died by suicide
Toney and Brandy Roberts, the parents of 14-year-old Englyn Roberts, who died by suicide (screngrab/CBS News)

The parents of a 14-year-old girl from California who died by suicide are suing Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, claiming their daughter watched a hanging video on the photo sharing platform and copied what she saw.

In August of 2020, Englyn Roberts’ father, Toney, went to check on her after receiving a concerned text from a parent of one of her friends. The parent said their child was concerned for Englyn and advised Mr Roberts to check on her.

When he did, he found her door locked.

"That was odd, so I took the key from the top and we opened the door and no Englyn. And when I I turned around that’s when I found her," he told 60 Minutes. "When you find your child hanging, you are in that moment in disbelief, just no way. Not our baby. Not our child. Ultimately, I fault myself."

Unbeknownst to her parents, Englyn had been struggling with her mental health during the coronavirus lockdown in 2020. Following her death, they looked through her phone to learn more about their daughter’s state of mind leading up to the incident.

They found that a friend had sent her a video on Instagram showing a woman participating in a simulated hanging.

"There was video. And that video was a lady on Instagram pretending to hang herself, and that’s ultimately what our child did," he told 60 Minutes. "You ask yourself, ‘how did she come up with this idea?’ And then when I did the research, there it was. She saw it on Instagram. It was on her phone."

The video was ultimately taken down in 2021, but it continued to circulate well after the girl’s death.

Englyn’s family is now suing Meta. The lawsuit claims Meta was negligent and is asking for punitive damages, loss of future income, medical expenses, and attorney fees.

"If that video wasn’t sent to her, because she copied it, she wouldn’t have had a way of knowing how to do that certain way of hanging yourself," Brandy, Englyn’s mother, told the news program.

Meta’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, told 60 Minutes that the company wants "teens to be safe online," and that the platform has since improved its "age verification technology."

She added that the company prohibits "content promoting self-harm or eating disorders."

During the 60 Minutes report, a producer tested those claims and found they were able to sign up as a 13-year-old without verification and successfully searched for content that promoted anorexia and self-harm.

If you are have thoughts of self-harm, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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