- A 16-year-old Malaysian girl died by suicide after sharing an Instagram poll asking her followers to help her “choose D/L,” The Guardian reported on Wednesday, citing local authorities.
- The police said 69% of respondents voted for “D,” meaning death, according to The Guardian.
- Local officials have questioned whether the people who voted in the poll could be culpable in her death. Abetting the suicide of a minor is a crime in Malaysia, and those found guilty can face the death penalty or up to 20 years in prison, Reuters reported.
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A 16-year-old girl in Malaysia died by suicide after sharing an Instagram poll asking her followers to help her choose life or death, The Guardian reported on Wednesday, citing local authorities.
According to The Guardian and Malay Mail, the police said that the teen posted the poll at about 3 p.m. on Monday with the message “Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L” and that 69% of the respondents voted for “D,” meaning death. About five hours later, she was found dead, Malay Mail reported.
Local officials have questioned whether the people who voted in the poll could be culpable in her death. Abetting the suicide of a minor is a crime in Malaysia, and those found guilty can face the death penalty or up to 20 years in prison, Reuters reported.
Ramkarpal Singh, a lawyer and member of Malaysia’s Parliament, requested that authorities investigate the circumstances leading to the teen’s death.
“Would the girl still be alive today if the majority of netizens on her Instagram account discouraged her from taking her own life?” he said in a statement to Reuters. “Would she have heeded the advice of netizens to seek professional help had they done so?”
Ching Yee Wong, the head of communications for Instagram Asia-Pacific, provided the following statement to Business Insider in response to the 16-year-old’s death:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with this young woman’s family. We have a deep responsibility to make sure people using Instagram feel safe and supported. 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.”
Instagram adopted new safety measures in February to better protect young users on the platform. Graphic images of self-harm are systematically removed, and non-graphic self-harm content is subject to a sensitivity screen that blurs the post before it is shown.
Instagram users found to be posting self-harm or suicide-related content are referred to a local support group or a suicide helpline; in Malaysia, the social-media platform refers users to Befrienders Kuala Lumpur. Instagram provides a full list of its global suicide-prevention partners on its website.
Many of Instagram’s policy changes were made in response to the suicide of Molly Russell, a British 14-year-old, in 2017. In the months following Russell’s death, her family found that she had been following multiple Instagram accounts depicting images of suicide and self-harm. Her father, Ian, has said Instagram “helped kill my daughter.”
While social media can offer teens a sense of community and voice, it can also affect their mental well-being. Parents are encouraged to monitor their children’s use of social media, and all social-media users should feel motivated to report potentially harmful and violent posts they find, regardless of what platform they use.