Samaritans join with tech giants to mitigate harmful content online

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Suicide prevention charity Samaritans has partnered with tech giants including Facebook, Google, and Snapchat to launch a new initiative intended to limit the impact of harmful online content.

The project is backed by the government, and will be launched today by health secretary Matt Hancock.

It will see the tech firms introduce new measures to mitigate the spread of so-called ‘harmful’ content that spreads online, including material related to self-harm and suicide.

The move comes in the wake of a number of cases in which material viewed on social media sites has been found to have played a role in suicides.

Most prominently, earlier this year the father of 14-year-old Molly Russell argued that the teenager had taken her life in 2017 in part because of posts about depression and suicide that she’d seen on Instagram.

Instagram later said it would remove graphic posts relating to self-harm.

At the time, the platform said it “does not allow content that promotes or glorifies self-harm or suicide and will remove content of this kind.”

Commenting on today’s launch, Samaritans chief executive Ruth Sutherland said: “This partnership marks a collective commitment to learn more about the issues, build knowledge through research and insights from users, and implement changes that can actually save lives.

“There is no black and white solution that protects the public from content of self-harm and suicide, as they are such specific and complex issues. That is why we need to work together with tech platforms to identify and remove harmful content while being extremely mindful that sharing certain content can be an important source of support for some.”   

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