Government to discuss Instagram tragedy.

A 16 year old in Malaysia has committed suicide following a poll posted on Instagram asking others whether she should die. The company so far have appeared remorseful in their comments when appearing as part of an inquiry by the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee into immersive and addictive technologies in Westminster.

The poll posted on Instagram read as follows, “Really important, help me choose D/L.”. This post relied on a newish feature for Instagram, having first aired in 2017, which allows the user to post a photo with possible actions for the audience. In this scenario over two thirds of the audience had favored death.

“The news is certainly very shocking and deeply saddening,” Vishal Shah, head of product at Instagram, told MPs. Vishal did show real shock and genuine sadness that such an act had occurred and stated that the application will be “deeply looking at” whether anything could have been done in this scenario and ongoing to avoid such distressing cases.

The platform has already done a lot to monitor users and try to ensure mental wellbeing, but there still a lot more that can be done, admitted the company. Karina Newton, Instagram’s head of public policy, stated that the post itself “violated the company’s guidelines.”

But, the way social media changes is so fast that you can put a measure in place to stop such acts and the next week it will be outdated. Look at how fast everything happens in this day and age, if we want real positive change we all need to help. Let Facebook know when you see something, raise the awareness and we can all help. Vishal said himself ” the way people expressed mental-health issues was constantly evolving, posing a challenge”.

Damien Green the chair of the committee asked, “Would it not be possible, where there are cases of people known to have been engaged in harmful content and [who] may have been at risk, that analysis could be done to see what other users share similar characteristics?”. Unfortunately GDPR gets in the way, so do we need to create new guidelines for such cases which quell the strict rulings?

Malaysian law outlines that, anyone found guilty of encouraging or assisting the suicide of a minor can be sentenced to death or up to 20 years in jail. However, thus far Instagram have yet to punish the audience of the post.

What do you think can be done in this scenario?