Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Sofia Villegas
06 June 2024
Meta releases sextortion data after death of Scottish teenager

Meta owns Instagram, where Murray Dowey fell victim to a sexortion gang | Alamy

Meta releases sextortion data after death of Scottish teenager

The technology company Meta has shared data relating to 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, Mrs Dowey told BBC News.

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

Mrs Dowey 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”.

She 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 said.

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 follows on from First Minister John Swinney’s pledge to fight sextortion. During FMQs earlier this month he said keeping children safe online would be a priority for his government.

Speaking to BBC News, 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, 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.

Earlier this year Holyrood spoke to one of the 26 girls who fell victim to the paedophile from West Sussex, Jordan Croft.

Aoife was targeted by the criminal six years ago when she was around 14 or 15 years old.

After she sent sexual images to Croft, believing him to be a boy her age, he revealed his age and began coercing and threatening Aoife to fulfil his demands.

“The thing I remember about that night was it was like a fight to let him [the abuser] let me sleep. He didn’t believe that I had school the next day and he was very much under the impression that he had to give me permission to go to sleep,” she told Holyrood.

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Sofia Villegas - TikTok fined £1.8m after providing Ofcom with inaccurate information.

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top