A 16-year-old girl who asked her Instagram followers to vote on whether she should live or die has apparently committed suicide.
Local authorities in the Malaysian state of Sarawak did not release the girl’s name, but confirmed to local press that she had been found dead about five hours after posting the poll. 69% of poll participants voted that she should take her own life, The Guardian reports.
Malaysian officials, including its minister of youth and sports Syed Saddiq bin Syed Abdul Rahman, have urged law enforcement to thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding her Instagram account activity and her death. Rahman told The Guardian he believes the girl’s death is indicative of “a national issue which must be taken seriously.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with this young woman’s family,” Ching Yee Wong, Instagram’s head of communication in the Asia-Pacific region, said in a statement. “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.”
Ramkarpal Singh, a lawyer and member of the Malaysian parliament, told The Guardian he believes those who voted “die” in the poll could be criminally liable for the girl’s death. In Malaysia, abetting the suicide of a minor is a serious crime, and those convicted of committing it can face the death penalty.
Instagram made changes to its policies earlier this year to better handle content related to self-harm. Now, graphic images related to self-harm are outright banned; any posted are removed by Instagram. Non-graphic content related to self-harm is blurred, and users must click through a warning to see it.
These policies were implemented following the activism of Ian Russell, whose 14-year-old daughter Molly committed suicide in 2017. After her death, her family probed her social media accounts, and found that people she followed on Instagram were posting graphic and disturbing content about self-harm and suicide.