Skip to main content

Facebook may face prosecution over bullied teenager's suicide in Italy

By Ben Wedeman, CNN
July 31, 2013 -- Updated 1122 GMT (1922 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Carolina Picchio, 14, jumped from a window to her death after bullying on Facebook
  • Her sister and friends say they reported the abusive content to Facebook, but nothing happened
  • The Novara prosecutor is looking into filing a criminal complaint against Facebook
  • Facebook says it encourages reporting of abuse and removes content that breaches its rules

Novara, Italy (CNN) -- Like many girls her age, Italian teenager Carolina Picchio shared her pictures, thoughts and emotions on Facebook.

But after a video of the 14-year-old allegedly showed up on Facebook in which she appeared to be drunk and disoriented at a party, social media became a source of torment.

In a wired world, children unable to escape cyberbullying

An ex-boyfriend and his friends posted a steady barrage of abusive, offensive messages aimed at Carolina. And what started out online spilled into her daily life at school, and among her friends in the prosperous northern Italian town of Novara.

The anti-bullying poet you have to hear
Ripa: Social media can be cruel for kids

Unbeknown to her family, it all became too much for her to handle. In the early hours of January 5, she jumped out of her bedroom window, landing headfirst on the concrete below.

Thousands of messages

Carolina's sister, Talita, and some of the teenager's friends say they reported the abusive messages from her ex-boyfriend to Facebook in the hope they would be removed. But, they say, nothing happened.

When bullying goes high-tech

"He was insulting her, mistreating her," Talita said. "We naturally spoke about it with her but she told us not to worry."

Now the Novara prosecutor, Francesco Saluzzo, is looking into the possibility of filing a criminal complaint against Facebook for failing to remove offensive content that may have led to Carolina's suicide.

"In the case of Carolina, it appears some of her friends, some of her relatives, asked for the removal of some of this strong content, and it wasn't removed -- and this played a role in her decision to commit suicide," he said.

Besides the abusive messages on Facebook, on the day leading up to her death, Carolina had received 2,600 vulgar messages via the messaging service WhatsApp, the prosecutor's documents show.

'Have you hurt me enough?'

Carolina left a final letter addressed to her tormenters, which her mother, Cristina Zocca, shared with CNN.

"Are you happy now?" the teenager asked. "Have you hurt me enough? Have you had enough revenge?"

Asked for the company's response, a spokesman for Facebook said, "We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Carolina Picchio and our hearts go out to her family and friends.

How to protect your child from online bullies

"Harassment has no place on Facebook and we actively encourage teens and parents to report incidences of bullying using the links located throughout the site.

"We remove content reported to us that violates our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and we escalate reports of harassment and bullying to law enforcement where appropriate."

Italian media reported in May that eight teenage boys ages 15 to 17 were being questioned by authorities on suspicion of incitement to suicide and possession of child pornography.

But Carolina's mother believes Facebook and other social networks must do more to confront the reality of online bullying.

"My battle is to make the social networks responsible, so that there are protections for minors," she said.

"We can't allow for more Carolinas, or other mothers who must cry and be deprived of the lives of their daughters."

Carolina's uncle has posted a video on YouTube dedicated to the teenager and her death.

It has become a rallying point in Italy for the fight against online bullying.

Journalist Barbie Latza Nadeau contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
James Dawes: Evil is the strongest word we have to prepare ourselves to kill others.
August 23, 2014 -- Updated 0159 GMT (0959 HKT)
As protests over the shooting of an unarmed black teen calmed down, the question remains: Where's the police officer who pulled the trigger?
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 0922 GMT (1722 HKT)
CNN's Tim Lister: Getting rid of ISIS will be tougher than taking on al Qaeda.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 0042 GMT (0842 HKT)
American patients infected with Ebola are being released from the hospital. What now?
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1048 GMT (1848 HKT)
One of the first observers at the MH17 crash site in Ukraine describes the harrowing scene.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
Five survivors of acid attacks capture India's attention with a "ground breaking" photo shoot.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
In an exclusive CNN interview, Lance Armstrong admits to having a "f**k you" attitude.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
The pain that Michael Brown's parents are going through is something Sybrina Fulton can relate to. She, too, lost a son in a controversial shooting.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid gestures during the UEFA Super Cup match between Real Madrid and Sevilla at Cardiff City Stadium on August 12, 2014 Cardiff, Wales.
"We are like one grain of sand against a whole beach," says Eibar fan Unai Eraso.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1022 GMT (1822 HKT)
From fierce protests in Ferguson, to an Ebola survivor discharged from a hospital in Atlanta, browse through the photos of the week.
ADVERTISEMENT