Internet search providers need to target 'pro-suicide' sites for removal, new report finds

The study also found that high profile deaths by suicide can result in a spike in search terms for material related to self-harm or suicidal behaviour. 
Internet search providers need to target 'pro-suicide' sites for removal, new report finds

Research has shown that more time adolescents spend on social media has been associated with "increased self-harm behaviour and suicidal ideation". File Picture: PA

Internet service providers should regularly review content and target "pro-suicide" sites for removal, according to a new report.

Research by the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF), which reviewed more than 100 articles and studies from around the world on the potentially harmful role of the internet in terms of suicide and self-harm, also said the monitoring and removing of information online about methods was also advisable.

The study is called 'The Harmful impact of Suicide and Self-Harm Content Online' and was written by Niall McTernan and Fenella Ryan of the Cork-based NSRF.

It identified a number of types of harmful content online related to suicidal behaviour and self-harm, including certain websites, search engines, message boards and forums, the darknet and social networking sites.

Previous research has noted that greater time spent by adolescents on social networks has been associated with "increased self-harm behaviour and suicidal ideation". 

It also noted that "suicide deaths of celebrities of high prominence can lead to considerable national increases in internet search volumes for suicide-related terms."

Australian crackdown

Regarding 'pro-suicide' or self-harm sites, Australia was the first country to prohibit them, with New Zealand and the United Kingdom following suit, and according to the NSRF: "Internet service providers should be encouraged to regularly review content and advisory notices, remove pro-suicide sites and take appropriate measures to prevent online social contagion."

It said guidelines and protocols to support communities to manage clusters should be updated, to include preventative measures which minimise the potential for contagion.

It also said "novel online help approaches" could be considered, while also allowing for the fact that in many ways the internet and online content is a source of helpful information.

It is clear, that as the ‘internet-native’ generation matures, suicide and self-harm related internet use is likely to become increasingly relevant and may be a proxy indicator for intent

"Additionally, considering the current context of the Covid-19 pandemic, people in Ireland are spending more time online. Nearly 3 out of 5 respondents (59.1%) to the CSO Social Impact of Covid-19 Survey in April 2020 reported spending more time on the internet."

*samaritans.org / call 123 116 *pieta.ie

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