Meta accedes to Police Scotland’s demand for data in sextortion case

After being extorted via fraudsters on Instragram soliciting compromising material, Scottish teenager Murray Dowey died by suicide last year, with his mother since accusing the site’s owner of ‘unforgivable behaviour’

Tech giant Meta has shared data relating to Scottish teenager Murray Dowey, who took his life after falling victim to a sextortion gang on Instagram.

Meta, which owns Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp, has confirmed it has now cooperated with authorities and answered any data requests. Police Scotland has confirmed it has received the relevant data.

This comes after Murray’s mother Ros Dowey accused the firm of “unforgivable behaviour” after it had failed to share information from her son’s account.

The 16-year-old from Dunblane died by suicide last December after being tricked into sending compromising pictures to criminals posing as a girl on the social media app. As of Wednesday, Meta had not shared the information despite a request from Police Scotland and a court order, Dowey’s mother told BBC News.

She explained that the US Department of Justice obtained a court order requesting the data on 1 May 2024, but that Meta had yet to respond.

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She said Meta was not doing “nearly enough to safeguard and protect our children when they use their platforms” and accused the firm of “unforgivable behaviour” by “hindering the investigation” and claimed the company appeared unwilling “to cooperate with international law enforcement agencies when things go horribly wrong”.

“How many more children might the perpetrator that drove Murray to take his own life have tormented since Murray died?” she added.

Mrs Dowey has also called for former Lib Dem leader Sir Nick Clegg, who now is Meta’s president of global affairs, to “sort this out”.

The announcement that the firm  follows on from new Scottish first minister John Swinney’s making a recent pledge to fight sextortion, and claiming keeping children safe online would be a priority for his government.

According to the BBC report a Meta spokesperson said: “We’ve fully cooperated with law enforcement in this investigation, including responding to any data requests.”

Sextortion cases are becoming increasingly common, reportedly amounting to two-thirds of reports to the Revenge Porn Helpline in 2023.

Meanwhile, research by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children covering the period between 2017 and 2023, found that at least one in 20 children has experienced online sexual risks or harm. This is equivalent to more than 630,000 children.

Sofia Villegas

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