At least 50 deaths have been linked to one website promoting self-harm that has escaped regulators in Britain and may represent a threat to children online.
British authorities, including coroners and police investigators, reportedly received multiple warnings concerning the website which promotes suicide but failed to act upon them. The first warning was sent out in December 2019 to a coroner. The site has now been connected to at least 50 suicides in the UK according to the BBC.
The media outlet refused to give the name of the website but it is reportedly easily accessible even by children. It is still up and running despite recent findings.
“Families of the dead, the youngest just 17, say the failure to act led to more avoidable deaths. They are demanding an inquiry,” the BBC reported. “They’re speaking out, despite the risks others may find the forum because they want action now to shut it down and prevent deaths in the future.”
My brother in law left a note to the police asking them to close this forum. He accessed the forum and was advised and instructed how to end his life. He felt he couldn’t be helped but other could be which is why he left the note.
— Melanie Saville (@SavilleMelanie) October 25, 2023
According to the BBC, at least one of the forum’s founders lives in the US.
A woman named Callie Lewis, who was autistic and struggled with chronic depression, was one of the victims.
“Without those forums, I think my daughter would have struggled to find the information that she was looking for about how to die,” Callie’s mother Sarah told the BBC in an interview.
An inquest into her death unearthed the forum. The senior coroner in charge in Central and SE Kent, Patricia Harding, warned the Department for Culture, Media and Sport over the woman’s death.
“Callie was enabled by the advice provided through the forum to frustrate a mental health assessment and thereafter take her life,” Harding asserted. “In my opinion, action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you have the power to take such action.”
— FilmCinephileHub ️ (@CineMagicHub) October 24, 2023
The BBC reports that at least six coroners have written the government demanding action against the website. The media outlet also says that at least five police forces are aware the site exists and have investigated deaths in connection to it. But so far, no one has allegedly taken action.
The forum has over 40,000 members worldwide. More than two million messages have been posted there. Some are simply horrific according to the news outlet. One showed a picture of a package arriving for a child in another country that allegedly contained poison.
“It arrived while I was at school,” the child wrote. “I called my mum and told her not to open it. I’m going to use it today.”
There are many, many posts like that and those on the forum reportedly encourage others to kill themselves.
“Lamarcus Small helped set up the forum after a similar pro-suicide thread was banned from the social media forum and discussion site Reddit,” the BBC noted, stating that most of those behind the site are anonymous.
They have failed to act and instead have monitored for 5years. Lamarcus Small shows no remorse for his actions and for the damage he has caused to so many families.
— Melanie Saville (@SavilleMelanie) October 24, 2023
“Small lives in the suburbs of Huntsville, a city in the US state of Alabama. Something of a recluse, he rarely comes out of his house. We waited three days to speak to him,” the BBC wrote.
Small contends that he is no longer affiliated with the site.
Kevin McLoughlin, Senior Coroner for West Yorkshire (East) wrote to the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) concerning a suicide.
He said the forum “may be actively promoting a particular method of committing suicide and hence breaking the criminal law by assisting suicide. Consideration should be given to blocking its availability in the UK so as to negate this risk.”
Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC that the website was “poisonous” and was designed to prey on “incredibly vulnerable” people.
Wtf is going on in the world.
— Rob (@d8840762) October 24, 2023
The UK government claims that the Online Safety Bill should address the site and its promotion of suicide.
“When it becomes law, the Online Safety Act will include a new criminal offense of encouraging self-harm and force platforms to remove that kind of content when it is reported to them,” the BBC stated.
Many parents are skeptical that it will stop this sort of thing, however.
“The suicide forum recently added an announcement to its front page saying it would not be complying with the UK’s Online Safety Bill. It also posted that going forward it would block or ignore demands for censorship from foreign governments,” the media outlet revealed.
“Ofcom – which will take on the role of digital regulator once the act becomes law – says it would be a serious concern if companies say they are going to ignore the law, and adds that it will have a ‘broad range of enforcement powers,'” it continued.
“Sites and apps will have to take steps to stop users from coming across illegal material, and Ofcom says that platforms will have to ‘act swiftly to remove these kinds of videos or posts when they become aware of them,'” the BBC noted.
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