The Molly Rose Foundation (MRF) is a charitable foundation set-up by the Russell family and their friends following the tragic loss of Molly Russell at the young age of 14. Through in depth research and policy work, the organization aims to combat the phenomenon of young suicide. After it was concluded that Molly had suffered from depression along with the negative effects of social media, MRF set out to uncover the role various social media platforms play in suicides and advocate for change to prevent it.
In order to assess the prevalence and availability of harmful content and algorithms on social media, MRF focused their research on Instagram, TikTik, and Pinterest. The Bright Initiative assisted in the scraping of this data, through Bright Data’s Dataset Marketplace, by collecting content connected to specific hashtags pertaining to suicide, self harm and hopelessness. Over a thousand posts including these harmful hashtags were collected from the three platforms which were then analyzed and coded based on various quantitative and qualitative factors.
The research was able to prove that young people are regularly recommended large volumes of harmful content, fed by high-risk algorithms, that amplify self-harm and suicidal content. They reported that that 48% of the most engaged with posts collected on Instagram and 49% on TikTok were found to promote or glorify suicide or self-harm, or contained themes of depression. Among many takeaways, they also discovered that Pinterest actively suggests suicide and self-harm content in their “more to explore” recommendation section. There is huge concern that social media companies prioritize a growing user base at the expense of user safety and MRF and Bright Data are working to change regulations and policy to make these platforms safer for all users.