Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Suicide is Painful (If You're an ISP?)

The government has announced it is legislating to clamp down on suicide websites (a good vote getter while the electorate panics alternately about theur savings, their mortgage and when Brown wil resign? says Pangloss, who has her mortgage with IF aka HBOS and is having a stiff drink..)

"The law on "suicide websites" is to be rewritten to ensure people know they are illegal, the government has said.

It follows concerns people searching for information on suicide are more likely to find sites encouraging the act than offering support.

It is illegal under the 1961 Suicide Act to promote suicide, but no website operator has been prosecuted.

The law will be amended to make clear it applies online and to help service providers police the sites they host."

Pretty clearly this is not new law at all, but mainly a sop to worried parents after the blanket publicity around the WElsh village of ABridgend as a suicide hot spot.

"Justice Minister Maria Eagle said "Updating the language of the Suicide Act, however, should help to reassure people that the internet is not a lawless environment and that we can meet the challenges of the digital world."

One wonders what relation this law will have to the familiar ECD Art 14 hosting immunities. Will ISPs be given a specific time limit for notice and take down, as in the E-Commerce Directive terrorism regulations? I'd gamble yes.

Will the IWF add suicide websites to their encrypted cleanfeed blocklist despite the acknowledged difficulties in spotting the difference between a site promoting suicide and one providing support to the suicidal? Yes again, I'd say.

Will the change in law be enforced against sites hosted abroad? Hmm - With great difficulty, and..

Will the legislature remember suicide law is different in Scotland and that there is not only no statute but no clear common law on the illegality of assisting or promoting suicide? I do hope so, otherwise we might see an upsurge in suicide websites hosted on Scottish servers!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled panic-stricken watching of Newsnight...

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