Mother hits out at Meta over sextortion death data delay

Ros Dowey Murray DoweyRos Dowey

Murray Dowey took his own life aged 16

The mother of a teenager who ended his life after becoming the victim of a sextortion gang on Instagram says Meta has failed to hand over vital data which could assist the investigation into his death.

Murray Dowey, from Dunblane, was 16 when he died last December.

Murray’s mother, Ros Dowey, told BBC News that Meta, which owns Instagram, had not yet provided the information from Murray’s account despite a request from Police Scotland and a court order.

Meta said its thoughts were with the family and that it was co-operating with the relevant authorities.

Murray died by suicide after he was tricked into sending compromising pictures by criminals posing as a girl on Instagram.

Ros Dowey told BBC News: “Instagram still have not released the vital data relating to the criminal investigation into his death that Police Scotland first asked for in January”.

She said the US Department of Justice obtained a court order requesting the data on 1 May 2024, but there has yet to be a response from Meta.

Mrs Dowey said Meta was not doing “nearly enough to safeguard and protect our children when they use their platforms”.

She accused the firm of “unforgivable behaviour” by “hindering the investigation” and “putting the lives of other children at risk”.

And she said the company appeared unwilling “to co-operate 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.

‘Sort this out’

Mrs Dowey has made a direct appeal to former Lib Dem leader and now Meta president of global affairs Sir Nick Clegg to “sort this out”.

A Meta spokesperson told BBC News: “Our thoughts are with the Dowey family during this difficult time.

“We are in touch with the relevant authorities about this case and are co-operating fully.

“For legal reasons we are not able to comment further.”

A spokesperson for Police Scotland said inquiries to establish the circumstances leading up to Murray’s death were continuing.

Sextortion often involves victims being sent a nude picture before being invited to send their own in return – only to then receive threats that the image will be shared publicly unless they meet the blackmailer’s demands.

A BBC investigation previously found criminals are selling guides on social media on how to carry out sextortion.

Screenshot of sextortion guide

Criminals were found to be using social media to sell guides

Paul Raffile, an intelligence analyst and expert on sextortion based in the US, said Meta was “dropping the ball”.

He claimed the company has emergency law enforcement response teams who, especially in the case of the death of a child, should be able to provide information within hours or days.

Other cases

He said: “This isn’t the first time Meta has failed to co-operate with law enforcement following a teen suicide from sextortion that has occurred on their platform”.

In 2022, he claims Meta failed to respond to a request from US Police for data on accounts belonging to teenager Jordan DeMay.

Jordan from Michigan was 17 when he ended his own life after falling victim to a sextortion gang.

“When police finally obtained access to the data, they found that the same scammers had exploited and blackmailed other children,” Mr Raffile said.

Two brothers have now been extradited from Nigeria to the US to face trial.

Authorities in Nigeria are also involved in the investigation into Murray’s death but his mother described progress as “painfully slow”.

Describing the criminals who blackmailed her son she said: “They’ve totally destroyed our family”.

She described her 16-year-old son as a “lovely boy” who had the “best sense of humour”.

“As a family we are losing hope that we are going to see any justice for Murray,” she added.

  • If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this story you can visit BBC Action Line.

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