Sarawak teen allegedly kills self after Instagram poll

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian lawmakers yesterday called on the authorities to investigate reports of a teenager who allegedly jumped to her death after asking her social media followers to vote on whether she should take her own life.

Police in Sarawak, in east Malaysia, said a 16-year-old girl, who was not named, had run a poll on photo-sharing app Instagram with the question "Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L", hours before jumping off the roof of a building on Monday, media reported on Tuesday.

"According to a close friend of the victim, the 'D/L' meant 'Death/ Life'," district police chief Aidil Bolhassan was quoted as saying by The Borneo Post newspaper.

The poll showed 69 per cent of the girl's followers chose "D", he said.

Mr Ramkarpal Singh, a lawyer and Member of Parliament, said that those who voted for the teenager to die could be guilty of abetting suicide, and urged the authorities to investigate the circumstances leading to her death.

"Would the girl still be alive today if the majority of netizens on her Instagram account discouraged her from taking her own life?" he said in a statement.

"Would she have heeded the advice of netizens to seek professional help had they done so?"

Under Malaysian law, anyone convicted of abetting the suicide of a minor could face the death penalty or up to 20 years in jail.

Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman also called for a probe, saying that the rise of suicide rates and mental health issues among young people needed to be taken seriously.

"It is very unfortunate a young life was lost in this manner," he said.

Instagram did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

In February, Instagram banned graphic images and content related to self-harm from its platform, citing a need to keep vulnerable users safe.

The ban came after pressure from the parents of a British teenager, who believed that viewing Instagram accounts related to self-harm and depression had contributed to their daughter's suicide in 2017.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2019, with the headline 'Sarawak teen allegedly kills self after Instagram poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe