A Malaysian teen chose to kill herself after asking her Instagram followers whether she should live or die.
The girl, whose name has not been revealed by most media, created an Instagram post titled “Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L.” Sixty-nine percent of her followers voted for “D” meaning “death,” The Guardian reported.
“We are conducting a post-mortem to determine whether there were other factors in her death,” district police chief Aidil Bolhassan told Reuters.
Ramkarpal Singh, a lawyer and member of parliament in Malaysia, said those who took the Instagram poll could be accountable in the teen’s death.
“Would the girl still be alive today if the majority of netizens on her Instagram account discouraged her from taking her own life?” he said in a statement obtained by Reuters. “Would she have heeded the advice of netizens to seek professional help had they done so?”
— Mothership.sg (@MothershipSG) May 15, 2019
The member of parliament thinks that those who participated in the poll pushed the girl towards suicide, and there are legal consequences for their actions.
“Did the encouragement of those netizens actually influence her decision to take her own life? Since attempted suicide is an offence in this country, it follows that abetting one to attempt suicide may be, too,” Singh said, via The Guardian.
Another government official thinks the tragedy highlights the need to bring the issue of young people’s mental health into public discussion.
“I am genuinely worried about the state of our youth’s mental health,” Malaysia’s youth and sports minister, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said, via The Guardian. “It’s a national issue which must be taken seriously.”
“We have a deep responsibility to make sure people using Instagram feel safe and supported. As part of our own efforts, we urge everyone to use our reporting tools and to contact emergency services if they see any behaviour that puts people’s safety at risk,” said Ching Yee Wong, Head of Communications for Instagram APAC, via The Guardian.
Instagram had already made an announcement about implementing certain safeguards after a related tragedy in 2017.
The changes came following pressure from the parents of a British teenager who believed that viewing Instagram accounts related to self-harm and depression contributed to their daughter’s suicide in 2017.
Molly Russell was 14 years old at the time her parents found her dead in her bedroom, Metro reported.
Her family discovered after her death that posts about depression, suicide, anxiety, and self-harm were suggested to her on Instagram and Pinterest. Even after her death she was sent emails with such post suggestions, Metro reported.
“It is clear to us that despite what the social media companies tell the public about their policies of removing disturbing content that such content is still available for young people to find easily, and by finding it they have more and more of it pushed on them by algorithms,” Russell’s father, Ian, said via Metro. “It is time for tech companies to stand up and take more responsibility for the content available to their young users.”
“The more I looked, the more there was that chill horror that I was getting a glimpse into something that had such profound effects on my lovely daughter,” Ian told The Sunday Times, via Metro.
Reuters contributed to this report.