[LINK] Calls for regulation following Internet suicide

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Sat Nov 22 11:40:16 AEDT 2008

Calls for regulation following Internet suicide
AM - Saturday, 22 November , 2008 08:13:00
Reporter: Jennifer Macey

ELIZABETH JACKSON: There have been calls for a greater crackdown of the 
Internet after a teenager in the US committed suicide in front of a live 

The teenager had posted his plans to take his own life on a body 
building chat forum.

The forum moderators dismissed it as a hoax while other users posted 
insults and some even encouraged the teenager.

Mental health experts say the Internet should be regulated just like 
other mass media.

Jennifer Macey reports.

JENNIFER MACEY: Nineteen-year-old Florida man Abraham K. Biggs posted a 
suicide note online and invited members of a body building forum to 
watch as he overdosed on pills in front of a live webcam.

He reportedly lay on his bed not moving for several hours before the 
moderators traced his location and called the police.

There are also varying reports that between 180 to 1500 people saw the 
live video.

Professor Ian Hickie from the Brain and Mind Institute at Sydney 
University says it's a disturbing development.

IAN HICKIE: It's very distressing news; it's distressing enough when a 
young person takes their own life, but the secondary (inaudible) of this 
kind of public display may be quite significant. So, the issue of 
putting the other people at risk is a consequence as well.

JENNIFER MACEY: The suicide was broadcast on Justin.TV, an open network 
of live streaming channels.

In a statement, the CEO, Michael Seibel said the site relied on other 
users to report inappropriate content.

(excerpt from statement)

"We have policies in place to discourage the distribution of distressing 
content and our community monitors the site accordingly."

(end of excerpt)

JENNIFER MACEY: But the moderators of the forum had initially dismissed 
the claim as a prank while other users posted insults and encouraged the 
young man to take his own life.

Professor Ian Hickie says the site's moderators have failed in their 
duty of care.

IAN HICKIE: People do underrate the seriousness of suicide or ideas and 
potential acts amongst young people; so there may well have been a lack 
of awareness in this particular situation of the real risk.

But even so, that doesn't explain away or excuse a failure to act when 
there is a potential situation of self-harm.

JENNIFER MACEY: And he says there needs to be greater regulation.

IAN HICKIE: Well, one of the difficulties of the new technologies is the 
lack of capacity to regulate them in the same way as traditional mass 
media, and yet they are mass media.

And obviously this type of direct daily life broadcasting leaves itself 
open to this kind of abuse.

JENNIFER MACEY: But the industry disagrees.

Peter Coroneos is the chief executive of the Internet Industry Association.

PETER CORONEOS: with the volume of content that is traversing the 
Internet, the sheer magnitude of the medium itself and the fact that it 
isn't subject to any one legal regime, we really need to look beyond 
regulatory solutions and look towards empowerment and education.

And hopefully the identification of people who are at risk before we 
turn to the medium and say that it's actually the Internet that's at fault.

JENNIFER MACEY: And he says the Internet has been used as a positive 
tool to help many young people contemplating suicide.

PETER CORONEOS: There must be a hundred thousand instances where people 
have been deterred from harming themselves because they've found support 
on the Internet.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Peter Coroneos, the chief executive of the Internet 
Industry Association, ending that report from Jennifer Macey.


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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