Malaysian Teen Commits Suicide After Instagram Followers Voted For Her To Die
Sarawak, MALAYSIA – A teenage girl jumped from her roof on Monday after a poll she ran on her Instagram page revealed that many of her followers thought she should kill herself.
Just hours before she died, the 16-year-old Malaysian girl posted the question “Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L” on her Instagram, according to Reuters.
“D/L” referred to death/life.
When the girl hurled herself to her death, 69 percent of respondents had chosen death in the poll, Reuters reported.
Wong Ching Yee, head of communications for Instagram in the Asia-Pacific, said the online poll ran for 24 hours and ended with 88 percent of voters choosing life.
However, District Police Chief Aidil Bolhassan told Reuters the final percentage may have been a result of the girl’s suicide, with people voting for life after news of her death became public, Reuters reported.
Malaysian lawmakers have called for a broader investigation of the incident.
“Would the girl still be alive today if the majority of netizens on her Instagram account discouraged her from taking her own life?” asked attorney and Member of Parliament Ramkarpal Singh in a statement. “Would she have heeded the advice of netizens to seek professional help had they done so?”
Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman also said the suicide needed to be investigated in light of rising suicide rates and mental health problems in teens, according to Reuters.
Malaysian law says that anyone convicted of abetting the suicide of a minor could be facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine or the death penalty.
In February, Instagram banned the posting of graphic images and content related to self-harm after the parents of a British 14 year old who committed suicide said that viewing Instagram had contributed to their daughter’s 2017 suicide, Reuters reported.
“As part of our own efforts, we urge everyone to use our reporting tools and to contact emergency services if they see any behavior that puts people’s safety at risk,” Wong said.
Instagram sent condolences to the family of the Malaysian teenager who killed herself and said the company was responsible for making users feel safe and supported when accessing the social media platform.
Chief Bolhassan said the incident was still under investigation, Reuters reported.
“We are conducting a post-mortem to determine whether there were other factors in her death,” the chief said.
But on Thursday he said investigators had determined the girl was already depressed and suffering family problems, Dayak Daily reported.
The girl who jumped to hear death reportedly had a history of depression, according to Reuters.
Lawmakers want the police to investigate whether those who voted for the teen to kill herself can be held criminally responsible.
Instagram’s leadership said it was too early to determine whether they would take any action against followers who participated in the dead girl’s poll, BBC reported.
"The news is certainly very shocking and deeply saddening," Vishal Shah, head of product at Instagram, members of the British Parliament in a hearing after the girl jumped.
"There are cases... where our responsibility around keeping our community safe and supportive is tested and we are constantly looking at our policies,” Shah continued. “We are deeply looking at whether the products, on balance, are matching the expectations that we created them with.”
"And if, in cases like the polling sticker, we are finding more evidence where it is not matching the expectations... we are looking to see whether we need to make some of those policy changes,” he said.
Instagram’s head of Public Policy, Karina Newtown, told Parliament that the girl’s suicide poll violated company guidelines, according to BBC.
Newtown said the company was looking at ways to address potentially suicidal visitors to the social media platform but said they had to be wary of privacy issues, too.
She declined to speculate on whether Instagram would take action against its members who encouraged the girl to jump to her death, BBC reported.
"I hope you can understand that it is just so soon. Our team is looking into what the content violations are," Newton said.