Molly Russell inquest will hear from top Pinterest and Meta employees

The inquest into the death of schoolgirl Molly Russell is set to hear evidence from top Meta and Pinterest employees in person after a submission on behalf of her family was successful.

The 14-year-old, from Harrow in north-west London, viewed an extensive volume of material, including some linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide, before ending her life in November 2017.

Her inquest will examine how algorithms used by social media firms to keep users engaged may have contributed to her death.

At the latest pre-inquest review in Barnet on Friday, the court heard submissions on behalf of social media giants Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, and Pinterest.

Molly was an active user of both platforms prior to her death.

It was requested that Elizabeth Lagone, head of health and well-being policy at Meta, and Jud Hoffman, Pinterest’s head of community operations, be permitted to give evidence remotely.

Oliver Sanders QC, representing Molly’s family, alleged this would be “disrespectful” to the family and the court, a claim refuted by Meta and Pinterest’s representatives.

He said in-person attendance is “gold standard”, arguing it aids communication and makes it easier for people to look at evidence, calling remote evidence a “compromise” and “suboptimal”.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, for Meta, said this would require “significant travel” at short notice for Ms Lagone, who lives on the east coast of the United States, with “associated fatigue and risk of illness” from Covid-19.

She said her evidence would “not in any way be diminished by appearing via screen rather than in person”.

She said: “Our submission is that Ms Lagone should be permitted to attend the inquest by video link and that she give her evidence by video link in accordance with Rule 17 (of The Coroners Rules 2013).”

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