On Wednesday 1 November 2023, the BBC reported that Sky Broadband and TalkTalk had taken action to block a pro-suicide website that has previously been linked to the deaths of at least 50 people in the UK. The controversial website, which has not been named for safety reasons, is still accessible to anyone on the internet, including children. The youngest known victim is believed to be just 17 years old.
On Tuesday 24 October, The Office of Communications (Ofcom) threatened to block the forum after it announced that it would not comply with any UK safety regulations, such as the Online Safety Bill. Ofcom is the UK regulatory body for telecommunications and broadcasting.
A BBC investigation alleged that British authorities have failed to act on multiple warnings about the site. This includes warnings from families of victims, police investigators and coroners.
A message at the top of the site even states: “Hello guest. We will not be following or complying with the Online Safety Bill that was recently signed into law in the UK.”
“This bill will not affect the operations of the site, nor do we have a presence in the UK to receive notice or fines that the UK Government may impose,” the statement continued.
The company behind the site is believed to be American. Nevertheless, this does not mean that it is excluded from UK sanctions, considering that it has a presence and user base in this country.
As a consequence, a spokesperson from Ofcom said: “The Online Safety Bill is clear that sites and apps will have to take steps designed to prevent users from coming across illegal material—including content that encourages or assists suicide. Platforms will have to act swiftly to remove these kinds of videos or posts when they become aware of them.”
“We expect tech companies to be fully prepared to comply with their new duties when the time comes. It’s a serious concern if companies say they are going to ignore the law. If services don’t comply, we’ll have a broad range of enforcement powers at our disposal to ensure they’re held fully accountable for the safety of their users,” the statement continued.
The website is known to have a global presence, with more than 40,000 members worldwide. More than two million messages have been posted on the forum, some of them “horrifyingly graphic,” according to the BBC’s report.
In one post, an image depicts a package that arrived by courier which some believed to contain poison. The parcel was ordered by a child in another country.
Some of the victims whose deaths have been associated with the website are Beth Matthews, Aaron Jones, Imogen Nunn, Josh Hendy, Zoe Lyalle, Jay Barr, Laura Campbell, Jason Thompson, and Rose Paterson.
At the moment, the UK government continues to insist that the Online Safety Bill should address these issues. It is due to receive royal assent shortly, which means that it will become law after it has been approved by the monarch.