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Results of an Instagram Poll May Have Spurred Tragedy

Malaysian girl apparently killed herself after asking online if she should live or die
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2019 12:02 PM CDT
In this Nov. 29, 2018, file photo, the Instagram app logo is displayed on a mobile screen in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

(Newser) – A gruesome online poll, with a tragic aftermath. It happened in Malaysia, where a 16-year-old girl decided to survey the masses on whether she should live or die. The Guardian reports that, per police, the teen put up her poll on Instagram, with the comment: "Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L" (meaning "death" or "life"). Just hours after 69% of respondents weighed in on the side of "death," the girl leaped off a building in the state of Sarawak, local police Chief Aidil Bolhassan tells Reuters. An Instagram rep says a review by the site after the girl's death found 90% of the respondents chose "life" for her, but Aidil thinks the number may have shifted after word got out she had possibly taken her own life.

Meanwhile, a lawyer has wondered aloud if the poll-takers could be culpable in 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?" the attorney says, per the Guardian. "Did the encouragement of those netizens actually influence her decision to take her own life? Since attempted suicide is an offense in this country, it follows that abetting one to attempt suicide may be, too." Reuters notes that a conviction in Malaysia of abetting the suicide of a minor could earn a suspect up to 20 years in prison, or even the death penalty. Aidil says the teen was known to have suffered from depression, and that an autopsy will be conducted to see if any other clues on her death can be unearthed. (Five years after "texting suicide," young woman was jailed.)

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