Mandated Social Responsibility on the Net

I have previously written of the appalling lack of social responsibility at prominent websites such as the Open Directory Project (ODP or DMOZ) (see Social Responsibility on the Net: DMOZ DeclinesDMOZ and web sites promoting anorexia and self-injury, DMOZ still promoting pro-anorexia, pro-self-injury sites, AOL-owned DMOZ Directory promotes child pornography?, and DMOZ still listing pro-pedophilia sites). I previously commented:

The message to those who have influence on the net should by now be clear: Clean up your act or perish. Accept some social responsibility or have it mandated by legislation.

Today, I see this article from the BBC:

Call to ban pro-suicide websites
Saturday, 9 September 2006
BBC News

The government should make it illegal for internet sites to incite or advise people on how to commit suicide, a charity says.

Papyrus, set up to tackle young suicide, said the risk posed by pro-suicide websites was not being taken seriously enough.

The charity said the 1961 Suicide Act should be amended to make it illegal to publish such material on the web.

The government said it was looking at how rules could be tightened.

At the moment, the law says it is illegal to aid, abet, counsel, procure or incite someone to commit suicide, but to be successfully prosecuted the individual has to have knowledge and participated in the suicide.

The charity said it was aware of nearly 20 internet-related suicides cases in the UK in the last five years.

Papyrus said typing “I want to kill myself” into an internet search engine offers access to 5m sites, many of which give information on how to commit suicide or were chat-rooms where techniques are discussed.

A spokeswoman added: “The sites take no responsibility for the advice they give, do not identify themselves and generally create an atmosphere where suicide is normal, acceptable and to be encouraged.

“The fact is that it is illegal to groom a child to have sex, but not to kill themselves.”

The charity said as well as changing the law, the Department of Health’s National Suicide Strategy needed to be amended to include reference to the dangers of the internet.

It also wants to see computer manufacturers and retailers include leaflets the charity has produced warning of the dangers of the internet when they sell products.

The Home Office said it was considering whether the 1961 Act could be changed to take internet sites into account.

But a spokesman said: “It is a very complex issue, as many of these sites are hosted abroad and UK law won’t apply there.”

And the Department of Health said it was looking at other ways of addressing the problem.

“We share the public’s concern about these websites and the influence they can have over vulnerable people, particularly young people.

“Ministers are working closely with the Samaritans and the Internet Service Providers Association to look at ways of supporting vulnerable people who may be accessing these sites.”

‘Web helped son kill himself’

There continues to be a vocal faction claiming a moral right to social irresponsibility in the name of free speech, an entirely fallacious argument previously addressed in Social Responsibility on the Net: DMOZ Declines. I am happy to see governments and mental health advoicates finally starting to bring the power of legislation and legal sanctions to bear on the issue.

As a society, we all have a responsibility to protect the vulnerable, whether that means protecting children from sexual predators or the mentally ill from themselves.


social responsibility, DMOZ, ODP, suicide

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

Check Up From The Neck Up

The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario is inviting individuals to take an online test called Check Up from the Neck Up, designed to screen for various anxiety disorders and mood disorders.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. This simple, online, private, mental health check-up can identify some symptoms of common mood disorders so you can get help if you need it. You can also learn more about mood disorders on this site and find resources to help yourself, your family members, or friends.

Mood disorders are very common. They affect 1 in 5 people at some point and yet few people seek treatment. Sometimes people are afraid to talk about it, or they don’t recognize that they’re experiencing a treatable illness. They may not know where or how to get help. This website was created to raise awareness about mood disorders and connect people with resources to get help if they need it. An online check-up offers privacy for people who want to learn more, and it’s so easy to do that everyone can participate as part of their basic health routine.

The online screening tests will be officially launched on Thursday, April 6, 2006, and runs for three months. The website also includes a variety of factsheets on a topics such as anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, menopause, PMS, seasonal affective disorder, suicide, and treatment options.

Take the online screening test here.

anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, menopause, PMS, seasonal affective disorder, suicide, mood disorders