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23.11.08

TV news gets on high horse about the evil internet again 

On TV3 : another tut-tut story, via , about how dangerous and horrible the internet is, this time about the voyeurs who did nothing while a netizen, Adrian Biggs, committed suicide online, live.
   It’s to be expected: are still scared of , so any story about the evils of the will be accepted with greater glee than in a rational world.
   While the story of the is morbid and it does rightly highlight that there were thousands of uncaring people out there, it’s plainly wrong to group all netizens together as though they were one group. It’s a mistake that old media make constantly—probably because 15 years after the web became mainstream, they still haven’t figured out what to do in response.
   The ’net is just as any medium—including networks who like to say this to advertisers all the time.
   In May 2008, one netizen in the US sent what amounted to a suicide note, which came into my emailbox overnight. The result was that dozens of people worldwide acted to prevent him from taking his own life. Emergency services were notified and the gentleman’s life was saved.
   Get it, old media: the internet prevented a suicide attempt. Of course, that was good news about the internet, the sort of thing not celebrated on TV network news during prime-time.
   If there is any nastiness, it’s a reflection of the human race, whose less savoury members are simply more easily found, sometimes congregating online. But old media don’t want to remind us of that—after all, these people could be readers, viewers and listeners.
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Comments:
The coverage is no different really from what is written/televised about people jumping from buildings from instance.

Too often, there are people goading the person about to jump and that's what ends up being reported. In this case, the story had the Internet twist to it. I actually think there is a reason to include it as I believe the Internet provides a layer of abstraction that makes at least some people behave abominably, in a way they wouldn't in real life.

You're behind a screen, far removed from the reality of a person killing him or herself - think about all the rubbish people put into emails or blog comments: they'd never say such things to your face.

I was surprised to see that story reported here in New Zealand, as normally, suicides are kept quiet under (I think) the Coroners Act to prevent copycat incidents.  
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.


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