The British authorities are facing criticism for their failure to take action against a website that promotes suicide, despite receiving multiple warnings about its existence. The website, which has been linked to at least 50 deaths in the UK, remains active and easily accessible to anyone on the internet. Families of the victims, including a 17-year-old, are demanding an inquiry and immediate action to shut down the website.
One tragic case is that of Callie Lewis, a young member of the forum, who took her own life after finding information on the website about suicide methods. Her mother firmly believes that without the forum, Callie would not have been able to access the information she needed. Coroners have also raised concerns about the role the website played in these deaths, but their advisory reports do not mandate action. Despite at least six coroners writing to the government, the forum continues to operate.
The forum, which is hosted abroad, has over 40,000 members worldwide and has attracted the attention of multiple police forces. Disturbing posts on the platform include images of packages containing poisonous substances and hotel rooms set up for suicide attempts, with other members offering encouragement and support. The challenge for authorities lies in the fact that the website is hosted anonymously, making it difficult to identify the individuals responsible for its operation. However, one of the creators was tracked down by the BBC, but refused to answer any questions.
The families of the victims are demanding answers as to why more has not been done to shut down the website. They firmly believe that earlier action could have saved many lives. The forum has also drawn police attention due to its connection with the death of a 22-year-old who purchased poison from a Canadian seller. The seller is now facing charges for shipping the same poison to hundreds of buyers worldwide. The National Crime Agency has initiated an investigation into the seller and is considering looking into the forum as well.
In response to these concerns, the UK government has highlighted the forthcoming Online Safety Bill, which is expected to become law soon. The bill aims to address some of the issues surrounding online safety by introducing a new criminal offense of encouraging self-harm and requiring platforms to remove such content when reported. However, mental health charities have expressed reservations, arguing that the bill does not go far enough to protect vulnerable individuals. They worry that dangerous content will still be accessible to adults over the age of 18. The forum, for its part, has made it clear that it will not comply with the Online Safety Bill and will disregard any demands for censorship from foreign governments.