Instagram To Ban Graphic Self-Harm Images After Death Of Schoolgirl Molly Russell

"It’s going to be much more difficult to find," says social media boss.

Graphic self-harm images are to be banned from Instagram, after the death of Molly Russell, whose father claimed the social media site “helped kill” her.

Adam Mosseri, who is head of Instagram, told the Telegraph that “no graphic self-harm image” will be allowed on the platform in future.

Mosseri said the search function would also change so that non-graphic self-harm images would be harder for users to find. This means self-harm content would be removed from the Explore and Search sections of the site and app.

“If there is self-harm related content that stays on the platform even if it’s admission orientated, maybe someone has a picture of a scar and says I am 30 days clean, it’s going to be much more difficult to find,” Mosseri explained.

Maskot via Getty Images

Recently, HuffPost UK searched for self-harm images on Instagram to see just how accessible the content was to young users. It took a matter of seconds to come across a self-harm hashtag with tens of thousands of posts, including some incredibly disturbing images.

Increasing amounts of pressure have been put on social media firms to clamp down on this type of content since the death of 14-year-old Molly Russell.

She was found dead in her bedroom in November 2017 after showing “no obvious signs” of severe mental health issues. Her family later discovered she had been viewing material on social media linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide.

Molly’s father, Ian Russell, claimed the algorithms used by Instagram enabled Molly to view more harmful content, possibly contributing to her death.

“Social media companies, through their algorithms, expose young people to more and more harmful content, just from one click on one post,” he said.

“In the same way that someone who has shown an interest in a particular sport may be shown more and more posts about that sport, the same can be true of topics such as self-harm or suicide.”

Mosseri met with Matt Hancock today, after the Health Secretary last week warned that social media sites could be banned if they failed to remove harmful content.

Jackie Doyle-Price, the minister for suicide prevention, also said sites should be held to account and legally treated as publishers so they could be punished for allowing graphic self-harm images and abusive images to be shared.

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email:
  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on