The BBC reports that a youngster of eighteen killed himself after viewing ‘pro-suicide’ websites on the internet.
While it is understandable that the parents would be looking for someone other than themselves to blame for their son’s decision to kill himself, it is hardly logical to blame the internet. There are several things wrong with such a claim:
1) The assumption that the internet is a cohesive whole that could, in itself, hold responsibility for the way it is used. An analogy could be used with a hammer. Workmen might blame the hammer when they hit their own thumb, but who is going to accept their reasoning? The internet, similarly, is a tool. It doesn’t kill people.
2) That websites discussing suicide are a bad thing. The parents and the media were quick to label these sites as, in their words, ‘pro suicide’ sites. I’ve seen many of these types of sites, and while there undoubtably are some sites that encourage people to kill themselves, these are vastly outnumbered by the sites which do the exact opposite and are typically always obviously comic in the black humour sense or otherwise obviously not to be taken seriously. The parents are now campaigning (again, I understand why they want to do this, but do not therefore need to consider it a rational thing to be doing) to affect policy that dictates the policing of websites, in an attempt to quash websites that allow the discussion of suicide. This is a really bad idea – need I point out why?
3) They assumed that the internet gave him the means to committ suicide. This is an impossible assumption to make. People have been killing themselves for thousands of years, so right away we can rule out the idea that such websites are amain cause of suicide. We can also examine where he lived – a house – and find numerous other easy ways that he could have figured out how to kill himself without ever going near a computer. There is electricity, water, rope, high places, sharp things, drugs, and if he really was stumped, his local library. Why aren’t we blaming libraries? Does the credence lent to a book by virtue of having been published necessarily allow it escape from such criticism? Im sure we could find plenty of suicides which were undertaken by people who had recently borrowed books from libraries on the subject.
4) The insulting assumption that their 18 year old, university student son was ‘groomed for suicide’ coupled with mind blowing analogies to paedophiles grooming children for sex online:
“It is illegal to groom a child for sex, but not to kill themselves. That seems wrong. What we need is for the government to make it illegal.
The report makes no mention of any particular individual involved in encouraging the man to kill himself.
I am not necessarily an apologist for the internet, but I do feel the need to react to such obviously misguided thinking. The parents are upset and can be entirely forgiven – the BBC however, should probably know better.