Explore BrainMass

Suicide and censorship on the Web

1. Should government weigh in and control what is posted to the internet for the sake of public good, or does an individual's right to free speech trump government intervention?
2. what is your responsibility as an individual when viewing a webcast? If you witness a suicide or read of someone talking about suicide, should you do something? If so, what should you try to do?

response is 1,307 words

Teen Suicide Viewed Online
In November 2008. a 19-YEAR-old community college student liing in Pembroke Pines, Florida. committed suicide In taking a lethal drug oxerdose of Ironl in a live webcam. Some computer viewers urged him on by texting messages that encouraged the teen to swallow the antidepressant pills that eventually killed him. Others used the message board to try to talk him out ot committing suicide. Online communities "are like the crowd out¬side the building with the guy on the ledge." said a university professor who studies the effects of technology on society. "Sometimes there is someone who gets involved and tries to talk him down. Often the croud chants, 'jump, jump.' They can enable suicide or help prevent it.' Some viewers did contact the police but only alter the teen had lapsed into unconsciousness, so the emergency crew arrived at the student's home too late lo save him. Their arrival was also captured on the live webcam, as hundreds of people continued to watch the tragedy play out. In the chat room, users typed acronyms for''oh my god" and "lol" ("OMG" and "laughing out loud" before the police covered the webcam, ending the show. The student, who suffered from bipolar disorder, had announced his plans to kill himself on a bodybuilder's Web site, but many viewers did not lake his threats seriously since he had threatened suicide on the site before. During the past year, the student had posted more than 2.300 messages to the bodybuilder's Vch site and wrote that online forums "become like a family to me." "I know it is kind [of] sad" that he chose to talk about his troubles online because he did not want to talk about them to anyone in person-the student wrote. His real family was appalled bv the reaction of others to the broadcast suicide. "As a human being, you don't watch someone in trouble and sit back and just watch." said the teen's father. "Some kind of regulation is necessary."
UNFORTUNATELY,THIS WAS NOT THE FIRST TIME SOMEONE HAD USED THE WEB IN THIS WAY. IN 2003, AN ARIZONA MAN OVERDOSED ON DRUGS WHILE WRITING ABOUT his actions in a chat room. In Britain a year earlier, a man hung himself white chatting online and webcasting the scene. In both cases, cither users encouraged the individuals with their online messages.
Message boards and blog sites are generally unmonitored, one of the attractions to using this site for many young people. Some site providers do attempt to supervise what is posted, however. After the Florida teen's suicide, and removed much of the evidence of the suicide and main users' reactions to it because they were deemed distasteful or provided information that would enable someone else to recreate the suicide.
Most Internet service providers, such as Facebook and MySpace. have taken action to try to monitor the activity on their sites after strong public outcry to a specific incident. Much of this effort has targeted instances of piracy or nudity. One child protection group,, scans Web sites for inappropriate content and notifies the Web site hosts, but the organization admits that surveillance is challenging. "The only thing you get from the combination of Web cams and young people are problems." said the organization's executive director It is extremely difficult to monitor unexpected video-casting of suicides.
Despite some efforts to restrain Web content, new Web sites pop up that appear to be without any controls. built its following by going where other sites feared into the realm of unfiltered live broadcasts from Web cameras. Basically Stickam offers a free service for anyone to post anything they wish: all you need is "an Internet connection and a browser with the most recent version of Macromedia Flash Player installed." The 35-employee staff of Stickam reportedly does not monitor any of the content. "Letting people do whatever they want is one way for these dudes to differentiate themselves," said Josh Bernoff. a Forrester Research analyst. "It is a race to the bottom."
So, what is the answer? Does the type of action showing a teen committing suicide become part of our technology-based culture, or should there be "controls?" Who should be responsible, and what should be controlled? These questions have plagued individuals and organizations involved with the Internet for decades and have become more complex and serious as lechnology has developed and becomes more pervasive in our societv.
Since its inception in 2005. YouTube has banned nudity and taken down copyrighted material when right-holders file specific complaints. Under additional pressure from copyright holders. YouTube put a 10-minuie limit on all clips. But new start-up sites are under pressure to compete Some of the larger sites typically do not screen or restrict content. Dailymotion users posted 1000 new videos a day to the emerging site, which had more than 1.3 million viewers in one month, an increase of 100 percent from six months earlier. Dailymotion, which is based in Paris, had entire episodes of television shows and recordings of music without copyright permission or payment of copyright fees. Yet, even this focus on copyrighted material begs the question: Should Web sites seek to control the webcast of suicides?
The police in Broward county, Florida, where the teen who committed suicide lived, promised to launch an investigation to determine if any criminal wrongdoing was comitted. "If somebody threatens suicide or attempts suicide, it's never a joke," said the Broward county medical examiner "It always requires attention. It's basically a cry for help."


Solution Preview

If the government does weigh in on this issue, they should do so only in establishing a domain such as .xxx, where people who desire to view, create or participate in such filth can freely and of their own free will do so. That preserves their freedom of speech, such as it is. Those who actually possess, or who have at least HEARD of morals, will refrain from viewing or accessing that domain, and the "entertainment," for lack of a better word, contained there.
That site should be restricted to adults of legal age. Then, let those individuals sink themselves in their own depravity. There are surely enough people on the face of this Earth that we will not miss the ones who delete their existence in such a fashion as committing suicide in public. Let a few more people delete themselves in such a fashion, and it will become a cliché, and no one will be interested in doing it anymore. It will (no pun intended) die a natural death. The real crime is not someone voluntarily ending their own life, but the thousands on this Earth who die of causes beyond their control which were preventable with access to health care, clean water, food and the like. The teen who committed suicide had access to health care, and opted not to use it. Instead, that person, mentally handicapped, deranged or otherwise impaired though he may have been, chose to grandstand his death into a cheap spectacle for the dubious entertainment of mindless others who obviously could not care less that he did it, and even encouraged him onwards.
I have never understood the prohibition against the taking of one's own life. If you are supremely unhappy in your own miserable existence, you have my full permission to check out - I will even help you to do it. What I do disagree with ...

Solution Summary

Discussion regarding suicide broadcasts on the Web, and if such things should be censored by the government.