- By Tony Smith and Angus Crawford
- BBC news
A pro-suicide forum has restricted user access in the UK after pressure from the online regulator.
The forum, which we are not naming, has been linked to more than 50 deaths in the UK – its content was previously available online without any restrictions.
Following an investigation by BBC News, UK regulator Ofcom now says it has contacted the administrators of the site, which is believed to be based in the US.
The forum can currently only be viewed by UK users registered as members.
Ofcom took responsibility for harmful online content when the Online Safety Act became law last month. A spokesman confirmed: “As part of our work under the new regime we have been in contact with the site.”
Anyone visiting a website promoting suicide will now be met with a banner saying content that breaches the UK’s new Online Safety Act will not be publicly viewable.
“We have made the decision to temporarily undeliver all content in the UK,” the banner reads.
It’s unclear whether new users from the UK will still be able to sign up as members. Existing UK members still have access.
Last month, BBC News revealed how British authorities failed to act on multiple official warnings about the website.
Our investigation has identified multiple warnings to the UK government by coroners and a number of police inquiries, but the forum remains active.
Last week, leading broadband providers began blocking the site for customers.
do the right thing
“They are definitely feeling the pressure and rightfully so,” said Melanie Saville, her brother-in-law, Joe Nihill.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but the content still exists, it’s still there to be found. They need to do the right thing and remove all the content and shut down the site.”
Meanwhile, forum users themselves have responded to the BBC’s investigation. Many people expressed anger when British regulators censored content.
One person wrote: “The vast majority of users find this website supportive. While there is information available on suicide methods, it is also a huge support for those contemplating suicide. It has helped me survive for many years now.”
But others who contacted the BBC agreed with the need for regulation.
One former user said: “I used this website obsessively while feeling suicidal and depressed.” “Looking back, it was absolutely disgusting.”
David Parfett’s son, Tom, died after visiting the forum in 2021. “It’s a good thing that new users in the UK can’t access the site,” he told BBC News. “That would really make a difference. But I worry that it will come up again and again.”
Mr. Parfett is currently working with Tech Against Terrorism, an organization that aims to save lives and prevent harm by stopping online terrorist activity.
It hopes to put pressure on the company hosting the suicide forum to remove it worldwide.
“Sites can easily be exploited to promote suicide and other online harms,” said group founder Adam Hadley. A common approach is needed to prevent harmful actors while protecting basic freedoms such as freedom of expression.”
- If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this story, you can visit BBC Action Line.