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Instagram bans drawings and memes depicting self-harm

The move is the platform’s latest response to outcry over the 2017 death of British teen Molly Russell

Instagram has confirmed its plan to remove images, drawings, cartoons, and memes which depict self-harm or suicide.

The ban is the app’s latest move in reducing harmful content following the death of British teenager Molly Russell, who took her own life in 2017 after viewing graphic content on the platform.

Speaking to BBC News, Instagram’s head Adam Mosseri said of the announcement: “It will take time to fully implement, but it’s not going to be the last step we take.”

In January – after Molly’s father revealed the platform’s role in his daughter’s death – the UK government threatened to ban the app if it didn’t crack down on harmful content. Since then, Instagram has launched ‘sensitivity screens’ which blur any potentially harmful pictures – though they can be shown if users choose to view them. 

The platform already blocks hashtags, dedicated accounts, and focused search terms related to self-harm and suicide, but Mosseri also wants Instagram to “better support people who post images indicating they might be struggling”.

Instagram claims it has doubled the amount of self-harm and suicide material removed since the beginning of 2019, taking down 834,000 pieces of content between April and June alone – 77 per cent of which was not reported by users.

Look back at our report about Instagram’s impact on your mental health here.