Instagram changes rules on self-harm postings after suicide

Instagram announced on Thursday that it will ban graphic images of self-harm.

The Associated Press reported that the change follows a British teen’s suicide after viewing such pictures on the social networking app.

“We are not where we need to be on self-harm and suicide, and that we need to do more to keep the most vulnerable people who use Instagram safe,” the company said in a statement. “It will take time and we have a responsibility to get this right.”


The company said that it will not allow “any graphic images of self-harm, such as cutting on Instagram – even if it would previously have been allowed as admission” and “will not show non-graphic, self-harm related content – such as healed scars.” It added that it will also try to get more resources for users who search for such images.

Molly Russell, 14, took her own life after viewing self-harm images on Instagram, according to the AP.  Her father, Ian Russell, said he thinks the images she saw on Instagram contributed to her death.

His testimony received attention in the British media and the British government was among those calling for changes on the social media platform.

Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter met with British Health Secretary Matt Hancock and representatives from a suicide prevention charity before the change was announced, according to the AP.

“What happened to Molly Russell is every parents’ modern nightmare,” Hancock tweeted. “Glad @instagram have committed to me they will now take down graphic self-harm & suicide content.”

Instagram is owned by Facebook. Facebook said that it too will no longer allow people to post images of them cutting themselves. Both companies previously blocked content promoting self-harm, but allowed people to share these images as admissions to family and friends.

“We will no longer allow graphic cutting images even in the context of admission and we will begin enforcing this policy in the coming weeks,” Facebook’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis said in a statement.

Updated at 3:47 p.m.