Facebook challenge after girl's death leap over insults

A prosecutor has opened an investigation into how Facebook allowed the publication of insults and bullying posts aimed at a teenager who later took her own life.

Carolina Picchio, 14, from Novara in northern Italy, died in January after a gang of boys circulated a video on Facebook of her appearing drunk and dishevelled in a bathroom at a party.

The group, aged between 15 and 17, were said to be friends of Carolina's former boyfriend. He had allegedly insulted her on Facebook when she left him days earlier.

In a note to the boy found in her room, Carolina wrote: ''Isn't what you have done to me enough? You have made me pay too many times.'' The boy said he apologised to her for the insults, but she leapt to her death from her third-floor bedroom window, writing on Facebook: ''Forgive me if I am not strong. I cannot take it any longer.''

The Italian Parents Association has filed a criminal complaint against Facebook for allegedly having a role in the instigation of Carolina's suicide. ''This is the first time a parents' group has filed such a complaint against Facebook in Europe,'' said Antonio Affinita, the director. ''Italian law forbids minors under 18 signing contracts, yet Facebook is effectively entering into a contract with minors regarding their privacy, without their parents knowing.''

Francesco Saluzzo, the Novara prosecutor, said he did not rule out investigating Facebook staff. He was investigating how the video had stayed online ''for days''.

''There is a procedure for asking for the removal of messages that break rules,'' he said. ''This is an open investigation without named suspects, as yet. Facebook itself is not under investigation. But we could theoretically investigate employees of Facebook who failed to respond to these requests.''

Mr Affinita said Carolina's death was ''the last straw'' after a 15-year-old schoolboy in Rome killed himself in 2012, having allegedly been taunted as a homosexual on Facebook.

Facebook offers ''report'' links on its pages to allow the highlighting of offensive content, and in 2011 launched a ''Stop Bullying, Speak Up'' application to raise awareness of the problem.

Eight boys, aged 15 to 17, are being questioned by magistrates, including Carolina's former boyfriend, who has reportedly claimed he was not at the party.

Italian magistrates have a record of challenging social media providers. Three Google executives were given six-month suspended sentences in 2010 for allowing the posting of a film in Italy of the bullying of a handicapped student. The case was overturned on appeal last December, but a magistrate is now fighting that acquittal at Italy's Supreme Court.

Telegraph, London

Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling Lifeline 131 114, Mensline 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

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