Teen death: Coroner condemns YouTube
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London - A teenager who was bullied by online trolls posted a heartbreaking video on YouTube before killing himself, an inquest heard.
Adam Smith, 19, who had learning difficulties, was bombarded with spiteful remarks and accused of plagiarism over a short story he put on a website.
In response to the vicious bullying, he posted a video on YouTube entitled ‘I’m sorry’ where he apologised for any misunderstanding.
But he was lambasted again by cruel users, who mocked him saying his speech problems were so bad it made them laugh.
Days later he was seen crying as he walked to a railway line near his home, where he was hit by a two-carriage train.
At the inquest into his death, the coroner condemned YouTube as ‘dangerous in the extreme’ and said vulnerable people who used it were at risk of harm.
Alan Walsh said: ‘I do believe that YouTube and some of the exchange of information and communication by comment, without knowing the individual’s reaction to the comment, is dangerous.
‘Adam was very dependent on his computer and the internet, in particular YouTube, for social communication and enjoyment but sadly he would then be susceptible to judgment by people who never met him, did not know him and were not aware of the problems he had during his formative years. I see that as a very dangerous environment.’
Earlier the inquest heard Adam had learning difficulties and problems with his speech and memory. But he attended college and had hoped to one day own a café.
In his spare time, he enjoyed writing fantasy stories about the characters from the children’s cartoon My Little Pony on a fiction website.
He would spend a lot of time on the internet and had a webcam set up in his room to speak to friends he made online.
But in May, he was ‘struck off’ from the website over claims one of his stories had been copied from another user.
His mother Amanda, who lives in Atherton, Greater Manchester, with her husband Joseph, said her son was ‘upset and angry’ and had begun to receive nasty comments. On May 11, he recorded a five-minute video to apologise. Looking forlorn, he said: ‘I know the people out there think I’m a d***. It’s just I don’t want a bad reputation on me.
‘I know I read the comments. I know I’m a coward. I know I deleted the comments.
‘I am scared. I hate getting a bad reputation. I just want to say I’m sorry.’
But he was further targeted by cruel messages about his speech problems, one of which read: ‘I don’t recommend you to make videos with talking... otherwise I’ll just lol (laugh out loud).’
Another commenter said: ‘I didn’t understand a single f****** thing,’ while a third posted: ‘Umm... no offence, but you shouldn’t skip English lessons at school dude.’
On May 24, Adam’s parents returned home from a shopping trip to find him missing. His mother then discovered a note in a bundle of papers on his bed.
That day, the couple were contacted by police who said that Adam’s body had been found.
It emerged that the teenager had posted a last video on May 20 called ‘My mind is made up. What is done is done’.
He said: ‘I know there’s certain people, I know who you are, and yes, you can say all those things you want.’
Police believe bullies posted more vile comments in the hours before Adam’s death. They later examined 73 videos uploaded by the teenager, but found that most messages had probably been deleted after news spread of the tragedy.
Recording a verdict of suicide at the hearing in Bolton, Mr Walsh said websites such as YouTube do not take into account that those using them may be vulnerable.
He added: ‘They do not take account of sensitivity and the reaction of people who have received these comments. The evidence I have heard is that Adam was a sensitive young man.’