Nunavut Post

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Lawmakers demand that technology companies ‘mitigate the harm’ of websites

mitigate the harm

Key Takeaways:

  • A House committee has requested briefings from search engines and web hosting companies.
  • Whose services may have been used by the site, which has been linked to numerous deaths.

Washington lawmakers are urging technology companies to take steps to limit the visibility and reduce the risks of a website that offers detailed suicide instructions and has been linked to a trail of deaths.

In response to a NY Times investigation of the site published earlier this month, the House Committee on Energy or Commerce issued a bipartisan statement on Monday requesting briefings from search engines, web hosting companies, and other tech companies whose services the suicide site may have used.

“Companies must take the threat of such sites seriously and take appropriate steps to mitigate harm,” said the panel’s statement, which was led by New Jersey Democrat Representative Frank J. Pallone Jr.

Last week, a representative for Microsoft’s Bing search engine told The Times that the company had changed its search engine to lower the site’s ranking.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, wrote to Google and Bing on Monday, requesting that they altogether remove the suicide site from their search results a step that neither search engine was willing to take.

technology companies ‘mitigate the harm; Image from Healthline

Members of the site are anonymous, but The Times identified 45 people in the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, and Australia who had spent time on the site and then committed suicide.

In Uruguay, where assisting suicide is a crime, the Montevideo police department has launched an investigation in collaboration with the local prosecutor’s office in response to The Times’s investigation, according to Javier Benech, the office’s communications director.

While many states have laws prohibiting assisted suicide, they are frequently vague, do not explicitly address online activity, and rarely enforce them.

Members of the suicide site who post instructions on how to commit suicide or encouragement to do so may face criminal charges, depending on the jurisdiction. However, no American law enforcement officials have pursued such cases about the website so far generally, federal law guards website operators from liability for user posts.

Source: nytimes

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