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Instagram’s algorithm officially listed as cause of death in UK lawsuit – Technology News, Firstpost

Meta-owned Instagram has often faced accusations that the platform has been harmful to the mental health of many young adults and teens, and that it isn’t doing enough to ensure that people in certain age groups have certain types of posts in their feeds. .

Now Instagram has been officially listed as a cause of death by a coroner in a case involving a 14-year-old girl named Molly Russell, who died by suicide in 2017.

Instagram's algorithm officially listed as cause of death in UK lawsuit

One of the main areas the lawsuit focuses on is the fact that Molly, the girl who died by suicide, sent thousands of messages on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest that promote self-harmbefore committing suicide.

The coroner who testified in the case, Andrew Walker, at one point described the content Russell liked or kept in the days before her death as disturbing, he found it “almost impossible to watch.”

In his coroner’s testimony, Walker concluded that Russell’s death could not have been suicide. Instead, he described her cause of death as “an act of self-harm while suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content.”

Walker came to his conclusion based on Russell’s prolific use of Instagram, which included liking, sharing, or saving 16,300 posts during a six-month period before her death, and more than 5,793 Pins on Pinterest during the same time, which, combined seeing how the platforms provided content to contribute to Russell’s depressed state made her situation even worse.

“The platforms worked using algorithms in such a way that in some circumstances they resulted in binge periods of images, video clips and text,” which “romanticize self-injury” and “attempted to isolate and discourage discussion with those who could have.” help,” Walker said.

To help users spend more time on their app, platforms like Instagram and Pinterest curate a user’s feed to show only things the user may have shown the slightest interest in. Interest is measured based on the time spent on a post, whether the post was liked or saved, whether the post was involved in the use of comments, etc. Instagram’s algorithm does not take into account the nature of the post , nor the age of the user interacting with the post. This, proponents have argued, is one of the biggest areas where content moderation has failed users.

Walker’s testimony raises a question that child safety advocates have been asking for years: How responsible are social media platforms for the content algorithms given to minors, and why should minors be allowed on the platform at all?

According to a Bloomberg report, the Russell family’s lawyer has requested that Walker “send instructions to prevent this from happening again to Pinterest, Meta, the UK government and the communications regulator.” In their statement, the family urged UK regulators to swiftly pass and enforce the UK Online Safety Bill, which could establish “new safeguards for younger users worldwide”.

During the trial, Pinterest and Meta took different approaches to defend their policies. Pinterest said it didn’t have the technology to more effectively moderate the content Molly was exposed to. Meta’s head of health and wellness, Elizabeth Lagone, on the other hand, told the court that the content Molly viewed was considered “safe” by Meta’s standards. Meta’s official response has annoyed the Russell family.

“We’ve heard a senior Meta executive describe this deadly stream of content that the platform’s algorithms have pushed to Molly as ‘SAFE’ and not against the platform’s policies. If this insane trail of life-sucking content was safe, my daughter Molly would probably still be alive,” the Russell family wrote in their statement.

They also added: “For the first time today, tech platforms have been formally held responsible for the death of a child. In the future, as a family, we hope that other social media companies have called on a survey to follow Pinterest’s lead, who have taken steps to learn lessons and are genuinely and respectfully involved in the research process.”

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