Instagram says suicide poll may have violated guidelines

Instagram has measures in place to detect ‘self-harm’ thoughts.

PETALING JAYA: An Instagram executive told an inquiry by the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in Westminster that the poll which saw a teenager in Sarawak kill herself hours after asking other users whether she should live or die would have violated the company’s guidelines.

Karina Newton, who is Instagram’s head of public policy, was questioned about the matter alongside the company’s head of product Vishal Shah.

According to a report by the BBC, the duo were part of an inquiry into immersive and addictive technologies.

It was reported that the victim jumped from the top of a shophouse after 69% of respondents asked her to choose “death”.

Sarawak police said she had put up the poll with the question, “Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L”, hours before committing suicide on May 13.

The BBC report said Instagram has measures in place to detect “self-harm” thoughts, where certain posts would be removed and support offered where appropriate.

However, Shah said this was a challenge as the way people express mental health issues is “constantly evolving”.

“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 was quoted as saying.

But while both Newton and Shah confirmed that their team is looking into the nature of the content violations, they refused to comment on possible steps to be taken.

“I hope you can understand that it is just so soon,” Newton added.