Samaritans launch new guidelines for social media giants on suicide content

New guidelines for internet platforms on how to safely manage self-harm and suicide content have been published by Samaritans in an effort to set industry standards on the issue.

Thursday, 10th September 2020, 7:30 am
The new guidelines have been issued for social media platforms such as Facebook. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

To mark World Suicide Prevention Day, the charity has released the new guidance and a new advisory series for internet platforms, which have been created in collaboration with the Government and tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Twitter.

The charity said the initiative is the first time major online companies operating in the UK have been brought together to develop guidance and industry standards, with the aim of tackling the issue of harmful online content while improving access to support resources.

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It said the new resources are not just aimed at large social media sites, but any platform which hosts user-generated content.

Concerns have been raised about self-harm and suicide content online, particularly how platforms handle such content and its impact on vulnerable users, especially young people.

Research from Samaritans and the University of Bristol found that young people use the internet to inform self-harm and suicide attempts.

The study found that at least a quarter of young people who present to hospital after self-harming with suicidal intent have used the internet in connection with their attempt.

Fears about the impact of social media on vulnerable people have also increased amid cases such as that of 14-year-old schoolgirl Molly Russell, who took her own life in 2017 and was found to have viewed harmful content online.

Molly’s father, Ian, who now campaigns for online safety, has previously said the “pushy algorithms” of social media “helped kill my daughter”.

The Government is currently preparing its Online Harms Bill, which is expected to bring in a regulator for internet companies and introduce a duty of care to users to which firms must adhere to, or face large fines and other penalties.

Samaritans assistant director of research and influencing Jacqui Morrissey said: “The internet is an integral part of our lives and an invaluable resource, but the challenge with this is making sure that online content is shared in a safe way, particularly for those who are vulnerable. Whilst we have seen steps in the right direction, we still think there is further to go.”

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