The suicide of a 16-year-old Malaysian girl has sent shockwaves across social media amid fears that she was encouraged to do so by people answering her poll on whether she should die or live.
The girl posted “Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L” on her Instagram account, with D meaning die and L meaning live. She also posted on Facebook indicating that she may have been considering suicide.
Police in Sarawak, Malaysia said that 69 per cent of responders voted that she should go ahead – although the number of respondents was not given.
The girl – traumatised by her family break-up – then jumped to her death from their third-storey apartment, raising questions about whether those who voted in favour of her death should be held accountable.
Her distraught cousin posted soon after the teenager’s death, saying: "Just now you guys voters for D, and this happen… Happy now?”
Ramkarpal Singh, a lawyer and MP in Penang, told Malaysian media: “Would the girl still be alive today if the majority of netizens on her Instagram account discouraged her from taking her own life? Would she have heeded the advice of netizens to seek professional help had they done so?
“Did the encouragement of those netizens actually influence her decision to take her own life? Since attempted suicide is an offence in this country, it follows that abetting one to attempt suicide may be, too.”
An Instagram spokesman said: “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 behaviour that puts people’s safety at risk.”
In spite of Instagram's reassurance, the case has unleashed a flood of anger about vulnerable users and whether social media companies do enough to protect them.