DMOZ still promoting pro-anorexia, pro-self-injury sites

I last posted on these DMOZ listings on May 2, 2006, almost a month ago (see DMOZ and web sites promoting anorexia and self-injury). I just checked back today – nothing has changed.

DMOZ, also knows as the Open Directory Project or ODP, is a large human-edited internet directory owned by Netscape which is in turn owned by America Online (AOL) which is in turn owned by Time Warner, Inc. Recently, Google purchased a share of AOL making them also part-owners of DMOZ.

DMOZ is endorsing and promoting web sites whose primary purpose is helping young people starve themselves into ill health or death, mutilate their bodies through self-injury, or kill themselves. The rationale for this seems to be that this is some sort of lifestyle choice. The defense of the practice, as with the previous DMOZ defense of endorsing and promoting pro-pedophilia web sites, is the banner of “free speech”.

Anorexia is not a lifestyle choice. It is a mental disorder. So is self-injury. So is suicidal ideation (at least in the overwhelming majority of cases, leaving out the issue of incurable terminal illness). Endorsing such web sites is akin to promoting web sites that promote depression or panic attacks or paranoid thinking as a lifestyle choice.

Have a look at some of the listings in these DMOZ categories – these are presented as a quick sample and not intended to represent an exhaustive list:

Where is the social value in sites like these? Who do they benefit? Where is the social responsibility in promoting and endorsing sites like these? Does anyone really believe that mixing in a few sites on the dangers of anorexia or self-injury justifies the listing of pro-anorexia and pro-self-injury sites in a public directory with the size and status of DMOZ?

ODP, DMOZ, eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia, self-injury, suicide, social responsibility, social irresponsibility

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10 Comments

  1. It’s called FREEDOM OF SPEECH! and it happens to be in the U.S. constitution. People have a right to promote whatever they want regardless of who’s moral taste it appeals to. It’s nWhy does it matter anyway? if people want to find these websites THEY WILL if not from the DMOZ search engine then from some other. The point is that these sights (sic) are out there and they will continue to be out there and you need to deal with that. What good is it to try and stop DMOZ from promoting these things? You won’t be solving any problems you’ll just be trying to cover them up.

  2. If you believe there are no limits to freedom of speech, even in the US, try posting about illegal activities on the net – child pornography, drugs, terrorism, etc. – and see how far you get before the authorities take action against you.

    This is not an issue of freedom of speech. This is an issue of social responsibility. Clearly, you don’t understand that concept.

  3. first off, you’re really helping people find these sites by posting them… you might not want to do that…
    and well yeah i agree people need help, but people also need to know they’re not alone? people are going to do what they do with or without the websites… and maybe creating a subculture isnt the best way to go about it, however, knowing they’re not alone could help?

  4. Actually, DMOZ is helping people to find these sites. That was the point of my post.

    As for individuals with these disorders knowing that they are not alone, there ARE genuine support groups on the net – many of them. True support groups help people to recover from these disorders; they don’t help people kill themselves or make themselves more ill.

  5. well dmoz might be helping them, but you are too, which was my point (i.e. take off the listings?) and support groups are usually formed by people who want to help, people who say its wrong, its bad, its abnormal, and you need to be fixed… now im not advocating self injury or anorexia, but its difficult for anyone who hasnt experienced it to get over their repulsion and their complete non-understanding of the subject, and people who do self-injure or are anorexic know that… they find it hard to relate in a site that pitys them and wants to fix them, but really has no understanding…

  6. 1. I don’t think you understand how difficult it is to get DMOZ to change anything. This blog post followed a drawn out attempt to get such listings deleted. The point was to try to shame DMOZ editors into rectifying their misguided policies and to try to mobilize public opinion to put pressure on DMOZ and/or AOL to do so. Naming specific categories (note: categories, not specific sites) was necessary to do that. And if you’ve looked at those categories, you will note that the listings are still there. If you are truly worried about people finding those sites, you can help by adding your voice to pressure AOL and DMOZ to delete them from the directory. That is what social responsibility is all about.

    2. I don’t think you understand the nature of support groups. Have a look at my Psychlinks Forum at http://forum.psychlinks.ca for example. We don’t shame or judge anyone there. We attempt to help them get their lives back on track. You’ll also find a link in the sidebar to this blog for the We Bite Back forum – check that one out.

  7. It may not be something you are comfortable with, but it is free speech and free expression. People who are contemplating the idea of suicide or have eating disorders or are SI sufferers do not really need a web site to encourage this behavior.

    I have been SI since the 1970s when I was a child and before there was any media awareness of the problem. No one instructed or encouraged me to do it, certainly not a web site.

    These sites are so wrong to incite vulnerable people, but these same people would probably do what they were going to do anyway in secret. I am not saying these sites are a good idea, but they are not quite the evil you make them out to be.

    I would never encourage a person who is ill to make themselves worse. That would be morally irresponsible to do, especially as I am currently in a sane frame of mind. Those who put up these sites are not always in a sane frame of mind.

    DMOZ is run by human editors who we should assume are sane, but all they do is categorize sites and not judge. If DMOZ doesn’t list them, the natural search engine results from bots will post them in search engines. Anyone could use a search engine and type in “ana”, “cutting”, “help me kill myself” or any similar term and get hundreds of pages of results. Heck, even YouTube has people doing it.

    I think someone hell bent on suicide will think of a way to do it. Someone who is determined to be below size zero knows how to do the job. And anyone who feels the need to injure have many ways and means around them.

    The web sites serve as a public statement that there is a problem, it exists and it will not go away just because it makes “normal” people feel uncomfortable. DMOZ could put in a disclaimer and direct anyone on that page to resources for help, but listing it alone does not mean they are promoting it.

    At times, these sites do help the ones with the problems by letting them look at the full spectrum of what they are contemplating. Sometimes they can change their minds from going to these sites. There have been several times when I felt so strong with the urge to cut that I visit these sites and no longer feel the need.

    The ones who usually create such sites are victims of these mental disorders themselves. It is their way of dealing with a problem they don’t truly understand themselves. They don’t see it as harming anyone because they are blinded by their own illness. It’s not like these are devious people who get off on the idea of killing others. Many of them need help themselves and lack a venue of non-judgmental support. The ones who find those sites are also looking for others who do not judge, but can relate.

    If such sites are censored, people who need to find others who can relate to them will still find support in other ways. When things have to go underground, it gets more dangerous. When things are out in the open, more eyes are aware of the problem.

  8. Of course it’s “free speech and free expression”. More accurately it’s free speech and free expression devoid of social responsibility – and that is the point.

    You cannot stand out in the street and say anything you choose to say, not even in the most democratic nation in the world, wherever that may be. There are limits to free speech.

    And there needs to be greater awareness of social responsibility in our social behavior. You are probably correct when you say that someone determined to find pro-anorexia peers will find a way. Someone determined to shoot himself will probably find a way to do that too, but I don’t believe we should conclude that we should therefore make it easier for him to find a gun or leave one lying around in plain sight to encourage those suicidal ideas.

    One of the problems is that when we tolerate and promote these sites, we as a society also implicitly endorse them. When DMOZ lists these sites, like it or not, stick your head in the sand ot not, DMOZ is saying to people, “We believe this is a quality site worthy of inclusion in our directory”.

    If you doubt that, read the standard reasons DMOZ editors give for why they select certain sites for inclusion and not others.

    And that is the real hypocrisy of the policies.

  9. The reason it’s like this is because there are a lot of people like me who are sick and tired of going on sites where we can’t even say what we really feel, because the people say it’s too “triggering”. I can’t say that I’m proud of SIing, because there are people who are “recovering”, so I’m forced to get off that site, otherwise people really bash on me. We need pro injury sites, because you can actually be yourself on those.

  10. I see your point. However, you would probably be much further ahead by visiting support forums which don’t prevent you from talking about SI – you don’t need to go into all the gory details to describe the problem and simply mentioning SI shouldn’t be triggering. Or talking about it to a counselor or therapist. Frequenting SI sites is not going to help you find better ways of coping. It’s only going nto perpetuate the problem by helping you to convince yourself that SI isn’t an unhealthy coping mechanism.

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