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back to article Health minister warns ISPs: Block suicide websites or face regulation

Telcos face being regulated by the government if they fail to block websites offering advice on suicide, the health minister Norman Lamb has warned. There are already calls for ISPs to cut off access to content that's inappropriate for children, such as pornography, by default – thus requiring smut oglers to opt in. This week, …

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Can you say

Feature creep?

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Ru

Re: Can you say

Oh, you betcha. Material safety data sheets? You'd better be keeping them under lock and key. Some sort of safety datasheet safety datasheet is in order, so that datasheets describing hazardous materials can be kept in a safe and secure location.

Also, did you know that Wikipedia publishes LD50 values and effects of poisoning and overdosing on various colours and flavours of chemical?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Can you say

Yeah exactly! Porn, now suicide.. where is the line drawn? Slightly off topic... Is gay porn on the ban list or is that ok? Just wondering if that meant kids wouldnt be able to kill themselves or watching m/f couples getting it on, but two blokes together is fine, dont want to upset stonewall now and the apparent "minority"....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Can you say

Actually, this is far more restricted in terms of print media that porn is. You can basically see anything (that's not specifically illigal) in terms of porn, however there is very strict censorship about suicide discussions and particularly details. There is an extremely strong correlation between articles in the press about suicide and its occurrence there was a cluster of teenage suicides in Wales (IIRC) last year.

There is also a very high occurrence of teenagers killing themselves having visited sites on the web about how to do it, where they can get support for the idea that they may want to kill themselves, rather than being told to seek help from friends, family or doctors.

I would far rather this was censored than porn, if there was a choice.

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Ru

Re: Can you say

"I would far rather this was censored than porn, if there was a choice"

The underlying issue, to my mind, is that there's no clear dividing line between discussions of suicide, and the rather broader subject of "material likely to hard the moral and physical health of the youth of the nation", or whatever the current PRC-speak describing their censorship policies is.

There's also the related issue of euthanasia and all the moral and ethical cans of worms that entails. I appreciate your underlying point, but it isn't at all clear that our legislature can avoid Thoughts About Children and the resultant need to Be Seen To Be Doing Something; not a good match with recent tendencies to draft ill-defined and overly inclusive bits of law that are easily abused.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Can you say

Living in big brother UK is enough to want to make you top yourself.

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WTF?

Guidance

How to kill yourself:

- perform a lethal action(*)

So, I guess that TheReg now will be on the banlist? Surely they deserve to be punished for allowing advice on suicide.

(*) Anything that will stop your significant body parts from functioning, using sufficient mechanical or chemical power will suffice.

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Re: Guidance

Anything on assisted suicides will probably be blocked too. Anyone campaigning for the right to end their own life in the UK will now be hidden.

So, the list is porn and suicide.

I expect they will add:

guns

bikini photos

bomb making

photos of high heels

free speech

bananas

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Boffin

Re: Guidance

Actually - not speaking from experience - but it's incredibly difficult to commit suicide, at least, successfully that it ends in death.

Statistically you are more likely to screw something up and survive with very severe, debilitating, repercussions i.e. by not swallowing enough pills/poison/chemicals; not swallowing the right concoction of pills/poison/chemicals; not managing to cut off enough air support; not managing to damage the right organ(s) or break the right bones...

Basically, the human body is such a resilient thing - it wants to survive even if the owner doesn't.

The danger here is that by cutting off discussion of suicide, the UK government may^H^H^H will also end up blocking websites that offer impartial, expert advice - and after receiving that advice may end up changing their mind - reading what I've read I can't see why anyone would try to risk it!

http://lostallhope.com/suicide-statistics

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Devil

Re: Guidance

As someone who has studied toxicology properly (as a part of a Chemistry MSc degree) I am going to disagree.

Past a certain education level in Chemistry, Biology or Pharmacology (~ 2-3rd year in uni) you learn enough to terminate anyone you like with ease - including yourself. So if we go down this route we should also ban access to most Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry and Microbiology sites while we are at it. After all they contain dangerous material ya know. Actually we should ban studying those subjects and replace them with Politology and MBAs.

Though that will not be original. Previous government already tried that including restraining orders on subject so they do not attend chemistry courses (I remember writing a request for Q in the commons to my MP on that one).

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FAIL

Re: Guidance

I don't think it's difficult at all. I think the real reason for most suicide 'failures' is that they never realy intended to kill themselves in the first place; just a 'cry for help' or an attempt to get attention.

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As "ruskie" (the poster above) says.....

...this was bound to happen.

So shall we have an office pool sweep stake on which websites will be on the ban hammer list for the sake of the children.

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Facepalm

Re: As "ruskie" (the poster above) says.....

And just how would you find out which sites are on the banned list, without being one of the "insiders" making the decisions? I suppose you could only know if you happened to know of the existence of the site beforehand - in which case, you will soon be contacted by the Department of Love for re-education.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: As "ruskie" (the poster above) says.....

Well, for a start, how do you think these sites will be blocked? Are the "insiders making the decisions" going to do it personally? No, they'll outsource it to ISPs. At which point, that list will leak, if it hasn't before.

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WTF?

Didn't we all see this coming?

Next, it's websites for political parties that have a hate agenda, then maybe those nasty trade unions who stir up dissent and cause national strikes, then pressure groups who don't have the same agenda as us...

It's not as if people haven't been killing themselves for thousands of years - I can't imagine that 'jump off a high spot' is going to be difficult to fathom out without a diagram and a Youtube video.

Fight the CAUSE of suicide (depression - why are they depressed?) not the symptoms (people killing themselves). But we know the goverment often confuses cause and symptom eh?

Depressing me now - better get some HowTo guides quickly before they disappear off the net.

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Gold badge
FAIL

Government "help"

" This week, the government has launched a campaign in England to help prevent people from committing suicide"

You might think that this would include easy access to mental halthcare professionls, councelors, etc. but no, all it needs is threats to ISPs. That will help those at their wits end.

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Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: Government "help"

Fixing the economy might be a good starting point as well.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Government "help"

You have a great point, access to mental health care is ridiculus in this Country and I have first hand proof.

Case I was having a big problem with a reoccurance of my childhood OCD problem*. My particular problem, which I myself identified, was getting to the point where I was being irrational about everyday tasks. Talking to friends and family is not always and option as my paticular problem could not be resolved by them, yes they were aware. I needed to see someone trained in the proffession, so I went to my doctor to arrange to see someone (I had no idea who to go through for it). 8 weeks, yes you read that right 8 weeks later I got to see someone.

By this time I had largely sorted myself out and the session was mostly used to confirm what I had gone through in my own head. Now luckily for me my particular problem includes an irrational fear of death so I would never have hurt myself even if the thoughts were there at tmes. But if I was someone that was thinking of doing something and the inclination to so so and had also sought help, well 8 weeks is a long time to wait.

Basically, you should be able to access these services as you would a doctor but because they are not needed so much then they are an afterthought. This is my story just to prove the percon above is right about access. Stop using these silly big brother methods that helps no one!

* it never really went away but it is something that I can easily push aside - usually - as I am aware of what it is and the rationale

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Government "help"

My doctor, on discussing the depressing thoughs I had, handed me a Samaritans card and told me the NHS was just too overloaded to have Mental health professionals available for me.

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Headmaster

Re: Government "help"

If you were OC about spelling then I'd say you're definitely cured now.

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Anonymous Coward

Bit of a pity...

... to see the reg also copying the wilful reversal snuck into the censorship debate.

Having to ask to not be censored is not "opting in", thank you.

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Silver badge

Re: Bit of a pity...

Having to ask to not be censored is not "opting in", thank you.

Seriously, you're going to have to explain that one. Not even being sarcastic (for once).

"Please don't censor me" != "Please allow me to see the censored content" ?

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@Greg J Preece - Re: Bit of a pity...

The point is that the "opt in" should be "please censor me".

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Silver badge

Re: @Greg J Preece - Bit of a pity...

Aaaah, I see where you're coming from now. My apologies, I got the wrong end of that particular stick. I blame Mondays.

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Anonymous Coward

N'mind that.

I realised I worded that part the wrong way around, but didn't think it worth the hassle to retract and write again. Apologies for confusing you. Then again, who cares what's behind the black bar, anyway?

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Anonymous Coward

Oh damn, I was going to kill myself but I can't find a website telling me how. Are they for real?

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It seems you can't apply common sense to Suicide decisions...

You only have to consider that since there was a maximum purchase introduced for paracetamol, the number of overdoses involving it has dropped significantly.

When the legislation was introduced I was saying something like, "so what: if people what to top themelves the'll just buy a packet from 4 different shops instead, so why should I be prevented from buying a large bottle at home so I only have to buy the stuff once a year"

However it seems I was quite wrong: it seems that if you make it inconvenient for people to commit suicide then a significant number just won't bother. So it seems entirely logical that if you make it difficult to find out how to kill yourself quickly reliably and painlessly, then you actually will save a significant number of lives.

Strange, but, it seems, true.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It seems you can't apply common sense to Suicide decisions...

But offing yourself with OTC painkillers isn't, strangely enough, quick and painless.

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Headmaster

"Strange, but, it seems, true."

And entirely misleading. As you say, the paracetamol purchase limit didn't stop premeditated suicides from shopping around, so the suicides it did prevent would be those committed on impulse with the easiest tool to hand. No doubt a few potential suicides did back out because they didn't like the thought of cutting themselves or whatever, but most of the people who would have committed suicide by overdose just went and killed themselves by another means.

On top of which, paracetamol overdoses are nowhere near as reliable as you think, and a lot of such overdoses are not serious suicide attempts. I can only speculate how many mentally disturbed people have died as a result of the purchase limit forcing them to try more lethal methods.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It seems you can't apply common sense to Suicide decisions...

JimC: A few points spring to my mind.

Firstly, someone I knew both as a child and and adult sadly committed suicide a number of years ago. I recall conversations with this individual shortly prior to her killing herself. I will avoid the details here but, because of these conversations, I am firmly of the opinion that, no matter what restrictions are in place, any individuals who are truly intent on killing themselves will do so regardless. Restrictions on purchasing OTC drugs and suicide (assistance) web sites, in my opinion, will do little* or nothing.

Secondly - just a few moments ago - I was watching a news article where it was stated that middle aged men are the demographic most likely to commit suicide - not teenagers or children.

Thirdly, tragic events happen in real life. Sometimes such events lead to a 'knee jerk' political reaction, As sad and as tragic as these events are, such 'knee jerk' reactions are, for the most part, nothing more.

As someone who has unfortunately witnessed first hand the impact of mental instability and suicide, howsoever caused, I for one believe that the time, effort and money being spent on ideas such as that under discussion in the article would be much better spent by providing new (or improving existing) mental health outreach programmes.

Mental health problems are a bigger issue within society than many care to realise. A serious problem requires a serious solution. Blocking access to 'suicide sites' is a no way, shape or form, a serious solution.

Politicians need to wake up and stop thinking that placing blocks or restrictions on or to online content are a magic bullet. It is not, nor will it ever be such.

* Yes, little would be better than nothing. But I am convinced the money spent on such 'initiatives' as 'opt-in' to view this type of content are a distraction to the root causes. The money would, based on my life experienc(es) be better spent in other ways.

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Silver badge

@Mike Hock - Re: It seems you can't apply common sense to Suicide decisions...

"little would be better than nothing"

Except that's often not the case because that's the argument used by politicians et al for the "Precautionary Principle", ie "well we don't *know* that this will do any good, but let's introduce this measure *anyway* just to be on the safe side".

The fact that said measure will probably infringe on the liberties and rights of many others never seems to concern them so much :-(

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Mike Hock - It seems you can't apply common sense to Suicide decisions...

I agree with what you say Graham, entirely. It's a good footnote to add to my post.

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I don't think blocking suicide websites is really going to cut the number of suicides.

I guess it'll be a standard DNS block anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Actually...

There is pretty good academic research to say that it does.

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FAIL

Re: Actually...

...and we are supposed to trust the word of an Anonymous Coward without any links to any such research.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually...

I don't have links to research, I have spoken to a healthcare professional - involved in the field - who I know on the subject and he assures me that it is the case. But that's what these debates are all like on the Reg, you side with the person who you think supports your view, regardless of any knowledge of the subject.

All I can say is: Go and look at the press compaints web site, there are a lot of suicide specific complaints, it's very strictly managed what can and can't be said about suicides because there is proven links to copycat behavior and clustering when details of suicide are published, particularly on front-page articles.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually...

"I don't have links to research, I have spoken to a healthcare professional - involved in the field - who I know on the subject and he assures me that it is the case. But that's what these debates are all like on the Reg, you side with the person who you think supports your view, regardless of any knowledge of the subject."

There are always two sides to every coin, hence debate and argument. For every argument here there is likely to be a counter argument. Will blocking access to such sites reduce the number of suicides? I can't say with any degree of absolute mathematical certainty, and I don't believe that is possible for anyone else to either. When it comes to suicide I would suggest that there are 3 types of individual. (1) Those who suggest suicide as a way of seeking attention. (2) Those who are (seriously) contemplating suicide. (3) Those who have committed suicide. How one includes 2 of these 3 these types of individual into any statistical correlation could be problematic and lead to false positives, or indeed, false negatives.

"All I can say is: Go and look at the press compaints web site, there are a lot of suicide specific complaints, it's very strictly managed what can and can't be said about suicides because there is proven links to copycat behavior and clustering when details of suicide are published, particularly on front-page articles."

Press complaints do not imo have any statistical bearing here. Additionally, an individual who has committed suicide may indeed have looked at suicide assistance sites, but that in itself does not prove absolutely that such sites were instrumental in their suicide* and to draw such a conclusion may be viewed a safe approach, but that does not necessarily make it the right one.

Clustering is to be expected. It is not unusual behaviour - it is commonplace in most every aspect of online life.

Much more unbiased research is needed. Either way, the money wasted here could be better spent elsewhere. Individual support is paramount in these circumstances and this is not support. IMO, of course.

*There is an AC post above that in fact illustrates the exact opposite, in a single instance.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually...

*There is an AC post above that in fact illustrates the exact opposite, in a single instance.

Sorry, I mean below - page 2 at time of posting :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: proven links to copycat behavior and clustering

Proven how, exactly? Did kids kill themselves because they saw it in the paper, or because they were having similar problems quite independently? Did they all do it in a fortnight, when it might otherwise have been a few weeks later before they went over the edge? Did they choose a method they knew worked (it was in the paper) when they might otherwise have tried something else less (or more) effective? Nobody is doing double blind tests, and there are just too many variables to know. But apparently something must be done ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: proven links to copycat behavior and clustering

The point I was making is that newspapers and magazines are not allowed to publish details of suicide, other than it happened, because of the proven clustering of copycat events if they do. If you look at the PCA web site, you'll see how seriously this is taken.

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Boffin

Re: Actually...

Look up social proof and the woether effect (aka copycat suicide). I'm not advocating censorship, but there is a huge correlation between media coverage and suicide rate upticks. In the context of social proof, people identify with other people and are then more likely to copy their behaviour (no shit right?). Anyway, what group is more likely to be identified with than the PR managed image of celebrities, who are designed to resonate with target demos. One offs themselves and a huge chain of fans follow. This deserves better, but I'm typing on a phone, so I'll call it an end. Again, not calling for censorship, but a little less media sensationalism.

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Facepalm

More moronic think-of-the-children legislation

I mean no teenage thinking about doing themselves in would ever think of jumping in front of a train or in front of a bridge without help.

Or , on the other hand, perhaps some of these websites allow them to discuss issues with each other that they can't talk about with other people. Who gets to decide which sort of site it is? Some clueless civil service wonk who probably last used a computer in 1985 when his secretary was off sick?

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Re: "... or in front of a bridge ..."

So which part of a bridge is the front?

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Re: "... or in front of a bridge ..."

I was thinking more on the line of 'They move?!' Come on, hard stats, how many people are mowed down by bridges each year and why isnt anything being done to stop this outrage!?

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Unhappy

Every day

Every day people in power come up with new reasons to introduce web censorship.

I suppose it has been decided that the huge range of legal powers already available to UK police have been deemed insufficient to counter this threat.

They're just trying to make use of a VPN compulsory.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Every day

"They're just trying to make use of a VPN compulsory."

Ah, but when does this madness stop and here does this path lead? Proxies illegal? Anonymisers illegal? Tor illegal? Authorised VPNs only? Compulsory filing of public/private encryption keys before use?

It's a big slippery slope greased by the Westminster fuckwits at large.

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18+

Won't be long before you have to be over 18 to use the Internet and must hold a valid Internet License.

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Silver badge

Re: 18+

Well, that would actually be a good idea.

If you had to be over 18 to use the Internet, then there would be no perceived requirement for it to be family-friendly.

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FAIL

Re: 18+

"If you had to be over 18 to use the Internet, then there would be no perceived requirement for it to be family-friendly."

Sorry , why should the internet have to be "family friendly" anyway? Thats a bit like saying roads or the post office should be family friendly. Its a service used by all, not just bloody kids. Its up to the parents to make sure the children don't visit inappropriate sites, not blanket censorship by government. And before anyone comes out with the usual blah blah of how can we monitor our kids - simple , you can't be arsed to monitor them , then don't by them a friggin computer or smartphone. Don't blame society for your own lazyness, inadequacies or inability to say "no , you're not having that".

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Anonymous Coward

@ Boltar

Sir, I agree with everything you said, but you should learn to spell simple words properly like "buy" and "laziness".

It would probably be really easy to just switch on the spelling checker that is built into your browser.

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