Internet suicide has two potential definitions, one extremely serious, and one very lightweight. The second is committed by people who disturb a website to such an extent that they’re no longer allowed to use it or lose subscription to participate in it. The former is a disturbing and difficult trend that has shown up in many countries where Internet use is frequent. It is usually a pact formed between two people who have met only on the Internet to meet in real life and commit suicide. Variants include goading someone else to commit suicide or consenting to be murdered; these acts may be privately undertaken or, worse yet, are sometimes published on the Internet.
One trouble with so much information is that some of it, in the hands of people who are disturbed, can be used in terrible ways. There are Internet sites and chat rooms where suicidal people meet and could decide to commit group Internet suicide. Information also tells people how to effectively kill themselves, and while such information is only a risk to the mentally vulnerable, it’s still very shocking when people conceive of plans to kill themselves, particularly with strangers.
In suicide chat rooms, the biggest concern can be that people don’t want to die alone, and they may encourage each other to act. Of similar concern is that such rooms are often full of predators who may convince others to voluntarily die so that they can commit murder. Such scenarios are nightmarish for anyone with a teen on the Internet or even a loved one who has shown emotional instability in the past.
Another issue is Internet suicide caused by excessive bullying or verbal harassment. These have definitely occurred too, and there can be criminal liability and potentially murder charges for those involved. These examples certainly prove that Internet use is both powerfully good and potentially a huge problem.
It should be noted that most times an Internet suicide takes place, it gets significant media coverage. Still, it would be a mistake to say these are common occurrences. Most times they represent an extremely small percentage of all suicides committed in a country. Yet as they get more attention, some worry this will also attract more people to them, and it is impossible or sometimes illegal to police all sites on which suicide pacts could form. Things like instant messaging chats are generally private, and there are a number of reasons why they should remain so.
Legislation in many countries is still catching up with how to treat Internet suicide. In homicide suicide pacts, it’s often easy to establish clear intent of murderers. Yet in suicides, it’s hard to say who is responsible. Is it people who let teens or others have Internet access or is it Internet sites that read warning text and ignored it? Sometimes there is no way to establish any form of legal fault or civil responsibility.