Bereaved parents will be able to access their dead children’s social media accounts under proposed new laws. Under the plans, social media bosses will be forced to unlock the data or face multi-million pound fines or even a prison sentence of up to a year, reports claim.
The plans are amendments to the Online Safety Bill which aims to prevent a repeat of the five year delay in terms of access experienced by the grieving parents of Molly Russell.
Their 14 year old daughter took her own life in 2017 after she was bombarded with images encouraging self harm and suicide on social media sites.
Film director Baroness Kidron has drawn up the changes after successfully persuading ministers to introduce the children’s code to protect minors against online harm.
She said that she had received dozens of grief stricken parents who were denied access to their children’s social media accounts.
The parents wanted to access the content in order to help them understand the circumstances around the death of their child.
Molly Russell’s father Ian has backed the plans after the experience of the five year battle for access which took its toll on the family’s “emotional health”.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Russell said that the struggle for access following his daughter’s death had prompted his support for the bill.
He said: “On many occasions, it would have been easy for us to give up and accept little or no digital evidence would be provided.
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“Instead, with the support of many, we resolved to keep pushing for the data required to learn lessons, improve online safety and save lives.
“Having lived through Molly’s extended inquest, we think it is important that in future, after the death of a child, authorities’ access to data becomes much more straightforward, a matter of course.
“A more compassionate, efficient and speedy process is required to meet the needs of families and the authorities.”
When it was finally released the data showed that Molly had received 16,000 posts encouraging self harm, anxiety and suicide in the final six months of her life,
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The coroner concluded that she died through an act of self harm while suffering from depression which had “more than minimally contributed” to her death.
Ofcom, the communications watchdog will have powers under the amendments to insist that bereaved parents and coroners get access if it is believed that social media played a part in a child’s death.
Social media bosses would have to hand over all “relevant” content which the dead child had “viewed or otherwise engaged with” within a timeframe set by the coroner.