Skip to main content

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

By Ben Wedeman, CNN
updated 7:22 AM EDT, Wed July 31, 2013
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
updated 12:47 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Flight attendants are wearing black ribbons to show solidarity with fallen colleagues in "a tribute to those who never made it home."
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Hamas: "Lift the siege." Israel: "End the rockets." The two sides' demands will be difficult to reconcile.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to Malaysia Airlines' Hugh Dunleavy about how the airline industry needs to react to MH17.
updated 4:42 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
From Maastricht to Melbourne, and baroque theaters to block-long warehouses, these stores make bookish travelers look stylish.
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Hamas' tactics have changed -- now the group is using commando-like tactics, says CNN's Ben Wedeman.
updated 2:09 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
A California homeowner's nightmare has become a cautionary tale for those who rent their homes to strangers.
updated 2:57 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
updated 8:21 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
updated 7:36 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Former President Bill Clinton acknowledges he got "very close" to helping achieve peace in the Middle East.
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
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.
ADVERTISEMENT