Police in southern England also found a hidden Instagram group called’suicide’ featuring twelve girls aged 12 to 16 years old, where the teenage girls plan to have “suicidal crises” and “serious self-harm.”
The police investigators uncovered the online community after three of the girls went missing and were found critically ill in London, according to the BBC.
The girls took the train to London to meet up.
They were discovered critically ill in the street and sent by ambulance to a hospital for emergency care.
One of the girls mentioned they had first met each other online and discussed suicide, according to the police briefing.
Police officers then examined digital devices to identify the name of the online group and its other members.
Seven of the 12 girls had self-harmed prior to being traced by the police. Children’s social care services from seven different local authorities have been involved in safeguarding children identified as members of the group.
Police said in a statement to BBC that “peer-to-peer influence increased suicidal ideation amongst the children involved to the extent that several escalated to suicidal crises and serious self-harm.”
Instagram says it found no evidence of its rules being broken as it uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to hunt and block self-harm posts and groups.
Some of the children had met on other social media platforms but were part of a closed Instagram group – a direct message thread – whose title used the words “suicide” and “missing”.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, does not deny that the name of the closed group referenced “suicide” but says it has not been removed from the platform because the content of the messages does not break its rules.
In a statement, a company spokesperson said it was co-operating with the police.
“We reviewed reports and found no evidence of the people involved breaking our rules around suicide and self harm.
“We don’t allow graphic content, or content that promotes or encourages suicide or self-harm, and will remove it when we find it.
“We’ll continue to support the police and will respond to any valid legal request for information.”