A UK MP wants internet providers to block suicide-related web searches.
Willie McCrae, an MP from Northern Ireland, is calling on UK ISPs to block web searches relating to suicide and block access to websites that describe suicide methods. He planned to raise the matter in the House of Commons this week.
“Everything in our power should be done to tackle this,” McCrae told the BBC. “Suicide is a reality that has gone through every section of our community.”
This is not the first time that such action has been considered in the UK. Last month, there were calls for websites that promote suicide to be taken down after the suicide of 15-year-old Tallulah Wilson who, prior to her death, had visited a website featuring self-harm. The Telegraph reported:
Stephen Habgood, chairman of Papyrus, a charity that works to prevent youth suicides, accused successive Government Ministers of failing to act on promises to tackle suicide sites.
He said the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) should treat internet forums promoting suicide in the same way as they do websites hosting child abuse images.
“I think that they ought to take down those sites that encourage and promote suicide because they are just as pernicious,” he said.
Suicide is indeed a serious problem. According to World Health Organization’ estimates, one million people died due to suicide in the year 2000 and it’s one of the three leading causes of death among people aged between 15 and 34. Here at home, according to Statistics Canada, close to 4,000 Canadians choose to end their own lives each year, including about 200 people under the age of 20.
It’s desperately sad. And, alarmingly, there are websites that do promote suicide and self-harm. In an August 2012 article entitled 10 of the most disturbing communities on the Web, The Next Web’s Joel Falconer had this to say:
Around the world, hundreds of teen suicides have been connected with involvement in pro-suicide communities. Tim Piper, a 16 year old who hung himself in 2002, was an early case. Rosie Whitaker ended her life in front of a train just last month [...] Others have opted to end their lives on webcam with the world watching, most notably the case of a Florida teenager who intentionally overdosed in 2008.
After so many cases it is impossible to argue that these sites are just information presented in the name of free speech, and do have devastating effects.
Websites and social networks are, however, now starting to put measures in place to address the problem. Facebook, for example, enables people to report suicidal content and Tumblr recently announced a new policy in relation to blogs that promote self-harm.
What do you think? Can we rely on the web to self-police or should we legislate to censor websites that promote suicide or self-harm? And would a block on such content actually help prevent suicides?
[Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can lead to suicide. Help is available. Please don't ignore the signs. - Ed]