Molly Russell's father welcomes World Wide Web creator's warning over self-harm content

11 March 2020, 23:28

Molly Russell
Molly Russell sadly took her own life in 2017 . Picture: PA

By Tobi Akingbade

The father of Molly Russell has welcomed a warning by the World Wide Web inventor about online harms facing women and girls.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee shared his concerns about the web "not working for women and girls", in an open letter to mark the 31st anniversary of its creation.

The 14-year-old schoolgirl took her own life in 2017 after viewing harmful images on Instagram.

Ian Russell has urged everyone to work together to make the web a safer place, saying "cases like Molly's show that this really can be a matter of life and death".

Berners-Lee warned that "the web is not working for women and girls", in an open letter to mark the 31st anniversary of its creation.

He said a continued lack of web access is fuelling discrimination against females, threatening global progress on equality.

Ian Russell
Ian Russell speaking at a NSPCC conference in 2019 . Picture: PA

Mr Russell also renewed calls for tech giants to "stop prioritising profit over the removal of online harms".

"If the internet is to be the productive, safe and positive resource intended then all of us must change how we use it," he said in a statement through the Molly Rose Foundation.

"Governments, corporations and individuals must act responsibly and urgently to prevent online harms, particularly those affecting vulnerable young females.


"Cases like Molly's show that this really can be a matter of life and death.

"Governments should regulate and not shy away from sanctions with teeth if their regulation is to work."

He continued: "The tech platforms should stop prioritising profit over the removal of online harms and they should share anonymised data so academics can better understand the links between mental ill-health and online usage.

"Individuals must use the web responsibly and also not be silent bystanders, instead reporting harmful content every time it is encountered."Most of all, everyone needs to work together to mend the web if it is to be the force for good it was designed to be.

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. Picture: PA

"That's why the Molly Rose Foundation is fully supporting Sir Tim and the Web Foundation's call that the web must work for everyone.

Please help make 2020 the year we tackle online abuse and discrimination, particularly against women and girls."

It comes as new research from Sir Tim's Web Foundation - which advocates for a free and open web for everyone - and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts indicates that more than half of young women and girls have experienced online abuse, including threatening messages, sexual harassment and the sharing of private images without their consent.


Sir Tim’s letter said: “The world has made important progress on gender equality thanks to the unceasing drive of committed champions everywhere. But I am seriously concerned that online harms facing women and girls - especially those of colour, from LGBTQ+ communities and other marginalised groups - threaten that progress.

“This should concern us all. And at times like now, when coronavirus is closing offices and schools, the web becomes the only way we can continue to work, teach our children and get vital health information to keep ourselves safe.

"A world where so many women and girls would be deprived of such basics is completely unacceptable.

"Women's rights are human rights and are fundamental to a healthy society, from reducing poverty and disease to improving education and economic growth."

According to the research, 52% of young women and girls have experienced online abuse, and 87% of girls think the problem is getting worse.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK.

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