Suicide forum blocked to most UK users after Ofcom pressure

by | Nov 9, 2023 | Health

By Tony Smith and Angus CrawfordBBC NewsA pro-suicide forum has restricted access to users in the UK following pressure from the online regulator.The forum, which we are not naming, has been linked to more than 50 UK deaths – its content was previously available online without any restrictions.Following an investigation by BBC News, the UK regulator Ofcom now says it has contacted administrators for the site, thought to be based in the US.The forum can now only be viewed by UK users already signed up as members.Ofcom took responsibility for harmful online content when the Online Safety Act became law last month. “As part of our work under the new regime we have been in contact with this website,” a spokesman confirmed.Anyone visiting the site, which promotes suicide, is now met with a banner saying content that violates the UK’s new Online Safety Act will not be viewable to the public. “We’ve made the decision to make all content unavailable in the UK for the time being,” the banner reads.It is unclear whether new users from the UK can still apply for membership. Existing members in the UK do still have access.Website linked to 50 UK deaths still active despite warningsSuicide website blocked by UK broadband providersLast month, BBC News revealed how UK authorities had failed to act on multiple official warnings about the website.Our investigation identified multiple warnings to the UK government by coroners and a number of police investigations, but the forum remained active.Last week, leading broadband providers began to block the website for customers.Do the right thing “They’re definitely feeling the pressure and rightly so,” said Melanie Saville, whose brother-in-law, Joe Nihill, took his own life after spending time on the forum, in 2020.”It’s a step in the right direction, but the content still exists, it is still there to be found. They need to do the right thing and remove all the content and shut the site down.”Meanwhile, users of the forum itself have responded to the BBC investigation. Many expressed anger that British regulators are censoring content.”The vast majority of users find this site supportive. While information is available on suicide methods, it’s also an immense support for people who suffer from suicidal thoughts. It has kept me alive for a number of years now,” one person wrote.But others contacted the BBC agreeing with the need for regulation.”I used this website obsessively whilst suicidal and depressed,” a former user said. “Looking back, it was absolutely disgusting.”David Parfett’s son, Tom, died after accessing the forum in 2021. “It’s good that new users in the UK can’t access the site,” he told BBC News. “That will really make a difference. But I worry that it will just pop up again and again.”Mr Parfett is now working with Tech Against Terrorism, an organisation which aims to save lives and prevent harm by disrupting terrorist activity online.It hopes to put pressure on the suicide forum’s hosting company to remove it worldwide.”Websites can be easily exploited to promote suicide and other online harms. There needs to be a shared approach to stop harmful actors while protecting fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression,” said the group’s founder Adam Hadley.If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this story you can visit BBC Action Line.Related TopicsOnline Safety BillMental health …

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