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Instagram under fire for not removing harmful content quickly

A teenager has hit out at Instagram, after she says graphic images of self-harm on the site, encouraged her to make multiple suicide attempts.

Anna Hodge is now 18 years old and was first diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at the age of 11.

Her depression became more severe as she entered her teenage years and as well as struggling with anorexia – she began self-harming.

She was eventually diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and depression.

Speaking to Sky News about her experience she said: "You feel such a build-up you need to do something and self-harm was that something for me."

Image: Anna Hodge told Sky News that Instagram is not doing enough to remove harmful content

At first, she found the online mental health community a helpful source of support.

But she later discovered there was a darker side.

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Instagram failing to remove graphic self-harm images

Instagram failing to remove graphic self-harm images

Sky News finds numerous disturbing videos and pictures on the social media website without encountering any filters or warnings.

"The more people you follow the more chances there are of seeing things that aren't appropriate… Instagram suggests accounts to follow and you go down a bit of a rabbit hole."

"Once you've talked to these people and you feel like you've bonded you don't want to unfollow when they post harmful things because you don't want to upset them."

Anna added: "If you've had some of those [negative] thoughts too, it reinforces that pattern of negative thinking in your head, it kind of encourages it."

Anna Hodge
Image: Anna is now out of hospital and recovering from multiple suicide attempts and self-harming

Now out of hospital, she also runs a recovery account on Instagram that encourages body positivity and positive mental health and regularly reports content to the site – but is frustrated by how often posts fail to be removed.

She estimates only 30% are ever taken down.

View this post on Instagram

♡ I know that when you're in a dark place you probably won't believe this – you can't see the point of anything, including living, when we're just going to die one day anyway. ♡ But that's focusing on the wrong thing. We are all going to die, it's inevitable, and that can be really scary – but we're forgetting that there's a whole lot of time in between. There are hopefully many years inbetween you being born and you dying in which you get to LIVE. ♡ Maybe you don't believe that we're all here for a reason, but just think of all the billions of coincidences that had to occur in order for you to be here today. We may as well make the most of this miracle we've been given. ♡ Think of all the laughs, the tears, the hugs, the kisses, the smiles, the friends, the family, the falling in love, the exhilaration, the things we get to see and do…think of all the living. And then vow to do it the best we can, to eke out every ounce of life we can, while we can. Love, Anna x

A post shared by Anna Zoe (she/her) (@hopingforhappy) on

"They just say 'we've reviewed your content and it's not against our guidelines'."

"They need to listen to people with these issues, listen to what they think is harmful and not what the big Instagram bosses think is harmful."

Social media companies have faced criticism over the secrecy that surrounds their reporting and monitoring processes.

Image: Instagram is a photo sharing platform, with upwards of 375m users

Instagram's policy has always been not to allow content that encourages or promotes self-harm or suicide.

Despite this, harmful content that Sky News reported, which included encouraging users to self-harm, remains on the platform two months later.

Charities like Samaritans, who are helping advise Instagram, say their goals will be hard to achieve without more transparency.

Harriet Edwards, Samaritans, policy manager said: "Critically, they need to ensure they're bringing people with them, making sure the public know these improvements are being made and making sure they know why these changes are being made."

Instagram have been criticised for not taking down harmful content on their platforms
Image: Content reported by Sky News still remains on the platform, 2 months after it was reported

Instagram said in a statement: "Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the people who use Instagram."

"We were clear that it would take time to build new technology and train teams to enforce the new policy, and people posting or searching for this content would be sent resources."

"This week, the policy came into effect. Now when people report this content, it should be removed and the person who posted it will be sent resources. We are committed to doing everything we can to remove this type of content from Instagram, but it will take time."

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