A macabre website that encourages the dark thoughts of its suicidal viewers and provides detailed instructions on how to kill themselves is in the crosshairs of a bipartisan group of Washington lawmakers.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, both Democrats, are among the local leaders of the multi-pronged effort, calling on big tech companies to reduce the prominence of the site on its search engines and asking for a Justice Department inquiry.
These are commendable efforts, which we wholeheartedly support.
We particularly encourage Sen. Blumenthal in his appeal to the search engine giants Google and Microsoft, which runs Bing, to remove the site from their search results.
Microsoft has said it already lowered the prominence of the website on Bing, but neither of the tech companies is yet willing to remove it completely. (CNY is not identifying the site to avoid giving it publicity.)
Among other big tech platforms, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit forbid such discussions, even though federal law shields operators of websites from liability for most content posted by users.
Blumenthal wrote to Google and Microsoft last week, citing a recent New York Times investigative article that detailed the site’s activities and included interviews with families of young men and women who used the site and committed suicide.
Although site users, known as members, remain anonymous in their postings, the Times was able to identify 45 people in the United States and four other countries who killed themselves after spending time on the site. Most were under age 30, and some were teenagers.
It is disturbing but not surprising that U.S. suicide rates have been creeping up for years, given the political, economic and, now, public health turmoil that has gripped the nation. More and more young people are experiencing depression and other forms of mental and emotional challenges, and are in need of help.
That help must come from families, if possible, and from the wider community including schools, Church and the health care system—not from a website that goads them into the ultimate act of self-destruction.
Indeed, it’s beyond our comprehension that anyone—two men, in fact, as the Times investigation found—would create and operate such a site. Bluntly, it’s as demonic an action as we’ve ever seen.
And yet, the site attracts an average of 6 million views a month, four times as much as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, with the majority of its viewers in the 15-24 age range. Sadly, that’s the same demographic that had the sharpest rise in suicides from 2009-2019, the last period with available data.
With their involvement in efforts to take down the site, the U.S. lawmakers join courts and legislators in England, Germany and Australia who are also trying to get it removed.
“How is this site still allowed?” asked the heartbroken and frustrated mother of a 17-year-old Dallas boy whose suicide came after he interacted with the site.
That’s our question too.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.