Encouraging the Young to Die - The Most Toxic Site I've Ever Seen
Before I begin, I need to warn people that this is a really dark topic and the things I’ve uncovered were difficult for me to deal with, so I can only reasonably expect them to be difficult for you too. It is also worth mentioning that unless I state otherwise, I am going to be using fictional names and usernames. OK So, for me, this whole thing started just before Christmas. As regular viewers know, I run a few teams who develop software that helps people write music.
And in order to make sure that our software is working as expected, we’re always on the lookout for music people write using our tools. So, recently, a friend I work with stumbled across a composer I’m going to call Bobby. C who had been sharing music on YouTube that he’d made with our software. And as my friend looked through Bobby C’s work, he discovered a really unnerving upload that had come out just the day before titled ‘my final piece’. My friend also noticed another upload which came out at the same time.
It was a final goodbye from Bobby C to all his subscribers: he thanked them for all the kind words they’d said about his music; thanked them for subscribing to him, and then very matter-of-factly announced that he was ending his life and that was it. My friend was really alarmed by this. These two videos weren’t yet 24 hours old by the time he’d found them, so he quickly acted - trying to track down Bobby C on social media to find a way to get a message to him.
He then sent me a message to let me know this was happening. After some searching, my friend eventually tracked down a post under a different alias on a forum that was dedicated to the subject of s---icide. This post was only a few hours old. It was titled ‘I’m ready to do it’. In the post, he identified himself as Bobby C, and then described the method he was going to use to end his life’.
In response to this post were a few replies bidding him farewell and complementing his bravery. Now, as you can imagine, this got my friend into a panic and he began frantically searching to find out more information. Anyway, we eventually discovered what country he was from and with a little bit more work, discovered his real name and location. We passed this information to local authorities but unfortunately, it was too late.
We got confirmation that Bobby C, who was actually a young teenager, had ended his life in an incredibly shocking way. We were obviously really distraught by this. For us, it happened over a matter of a few hours and we didn’t quite know how to process it. Anyway a few hours after we had received confirmation of his passing, I went for a walk with my kids to a local park… and a thought began to nag me. Bobby C. You know what? I think I know that name.
So, when I got back home, I searched for him on my various social media channels… and… immediately, he popped up. Turns out he followed me in a few different places. He had commented on quite a few of my posts and had been a reasonably active member of my discord server, which is a place where people largely discuss music. Bobby C was interested in composing more than anything else. He had helped other composers with their pieces and showcased his own music on one of our listening sessions.
Like me, he was a fan of chess and he seemed to have a pretty solid knowledge of the standard openings. He also took part in some sillier activities too, like submitting fun images of really janky looking musical toys he found in his local store. He found it funny one time when I referred to my kids as Janklings because this one time, they wouldn’t go to sleep.
Looking back over his messages, he seemed like a fun, sweet kid. And with more digging, we got a better glimpse into his life: we found out more about his hobbies and academic achievements. We found out about his school as well as the wider community he was quite active in. Seeing the impact his death had on that community was just. Just horrible. There’s no other word for it.
Now, there was another reason I did so much digging into his activity on my Discord. I wanted to see whether he’d ever hinted at his intentions to anyone there. Turns out… no. Nothing. Not once did he say anything even remotely pessimistic. He encouraged others with their music and generally took part in the goofiness that goes on.
So, I felt some relief that we didn’t miss anything. He never said a word about his problems to us. But then I began to wonder… why? Why did he tell this other group instead… And that’s when I began to take a closer look at that forum I mentioned earlier. The place where he posted his final farewell. Now, guidelines for media reporting on this subject strongly discourages naming this site directly.
For this reason, I’m going to call the site ‘Sorrow Solution’ or ‘SS’ for short. Meet Keli. She got in contact with me after reading some objections I posted on the SS forum. Her Son took his own life after being coached by this site in 2020. Since then, she’s been tirelessly campaigning in the US to have it shut down.
Kelli introduced me to other parents, whose children have also taken their lives after exposure to SS and who are now campaigning in their own countries. It was learning about their difficulties in raising awareness about this site - and in getting it shut down - that convinced me to become involved. We’ll speak to some of these parents later, as well as legislators in the US and UK. The purpose of this video is twofold. First I want to draw people’s attention to the criminal nature of this specific forum to warn them of its dangers.
I guarantee you - if you’ve not encountered this place before - you won’t believe how bad it actually is. My second reason is to do something no other media coverage I’ve seen has attempted. Since, SS gets millions of page views a month (it had 10 million views in September 2022), it has a lot of users and I want to address them directly. If you are a user of this site, I believe there are overwhelmingly strong reasons why you should leave it. I believe you are being used to contribute to a significant level of destruction.
Destruction you have not been informed about. So, let’s get started. The SS forum exclusively deals with matters relating to ending one’s life. At first glance, it’s a little tricky to find your bearings due to all the specialised jargon and abbreviations. For example, the act of bringing one’s life to an end is referred to as CTB, which stands for either ‘cease to breathe’ or more popularly, ‘catch the bus’. So, while trawling the site, you’ll immediately be confronted with posts like ‘preferred method of CTB?’ or ‘please help! wanna CTB by [the name of the method] but worried about SI.
‘SI’ stands for survival instinct, by the way. And when diving into these posts, the first thing you’ll observe is just the absence of content moderation, despite the site’s main rule: Do not encourage, suggest, manipulate, coerce, or help users carry out acts of any nature whatsoever; including CTB. Only provide factual information and emotional support to those who ask for it. This rule is a complete smokescreen. All you need to do is click on almost any post and you’ll immediately find users blatantly breaking it: For example, in a post titled: “I need to CTB tomorrow.”
The user says: “Please help me with a way out? My preferred method has a low success rate and I can’t think of anything else.” The first response to this is advice so specific and so graphic that I couldn’t possibly repeat it here. This is a standard example of daily conversation on this forum.
The people who run the server also actively discourage helpful advice. For example, on one thread, when a poster announced that he was about to take his own life, one response was ‘If you change your mind, call help ASAP’. However, this person who said this was then chastised by another user who replied ‘Why would you say that here?’.
This last comment was then ‘liked’ by the site administrator. Their most important policy is age. The site states that you must be 18 or over to sign up. Their method of enforcing this is to provide a tickbox that you must check to verify that you are 18.
No protections of any kind. There are a few more examples of policies like this, some of which I’ll go through later. What’s important to note is that the most important ones are not enforced in any meaningful way.
I later learned that most of these policies were added not too long ago, when the site began coming under scrutiny. It’s an ass-covering exercise. Earlier iterations of the site were much more blatant. And this led me to wonder ‘if you peel away the veneer - what is the actual belief system underpinning this site?’ and that’s where I began to uncover a hole so deep and so toxic that it just beggars belief. Let’s start with the site’s real philosophy.
In a prominent sticky thread at the top of the forum page, there’s a list of four philosophies that the admins describe as being ‘adjacent’ to theirs. This is the key to understanding their mindset. There’s (drum roll) Nihilism: which they reductively summarise as ‘A philosophy that views all life as meaningless.’ We’ll just leave that one as is.
The second philosophy is Antinatalism. Which they describe as: “A philosophy that assigns negative value to existence… [because] (existence) is imposed upon the individual without their consent.” Now, in recent years, this particular idea has gained traction on various forums. I don’t want to get diverted by this subculture too much… whatever its origins, its main idea now amounts to a serious resentment of one’s parents… because they’re the ones who put you on this planet… and they did that to satisfy their own selfish requirements to have children. Here’s an example of how this idea manifests in conversations on the forum: in one thread, a user describes how he’s worried about the pain he’d cause to his mother if he took his own life.
To which another user replies : “I’m always curious how people who want to CTB can still love their mother so much. After all, they used you as a meat shield for their own good.” The third ‘philosophy’ is Promortalism, described as ‘A philosophy that assigns a positive value to death’. Now, this one is so stupid, it’s tempting to skip over but it’s actually really important.
It underpins an attitude that you encounter on the forum constantly: the idea that life is so horrible, it’s actually immoral to act in any way that might dissuade someone from ending their life. In practice, it’s used constantly to chastise those who recommend therapy, or to suggest that there might be a reason to live. In fact, on this forum, suggesting that there’s a reason to live is about the most gouache thing you could say.
And last. And least: Libertarianism. ‘The belief that the individual is the owner of their body and has the right to dispose of it however they see fit.’
Yeah, wouldn’t be my go-to summary of libertarianism. There’s obviously a ‘personal freedom’ connection being made here for those who might already be in that headspace. Now, along with this is the forum’s attitude towards all mental health and recovery services. In a nutshell, if you are thinking of ending your life, the predominant opinion on the forum is that you should not speak to anyone about your thoughts, because if you do, they’re going tol lock you up in a psych ward.
This isn’t directly expressed in the site’s official link to recovery options, where, at least, they provide a few hotline numbers as well as zany pseudo science alternatives, like microdosing LSD and MDMA assisted therapy. No, if you want to get a sense of what admins approve of, just look at their moderation. What they permit and what many of the most prolific members say. For example, when one user posted: “I learned long ago that there's absolutely no point in talking to people. Doctors, psychiatrists, family, friends, it doesn't matter, they never listen… they seem to prefer taking others hostage over respecting someone's decision to CTB.”
In response, one of the most prolific members - who has posted over sixteen thousand messages on the site responded: “I agree with this. People will never be able to understand as they are not in a similar situation and if you open up about your suffering it’s likely that you will just get invalidated in some way.” We’ll get back to this member, who I’ll refer to as Cake123, later It really only takes a few minutes of viewing various posts and their responses for you to become exposed to this anti-help perspective, and only a few hours more for it to become crystalised in your mind. I understood it perfectly well before I discovered their four ‘adjacent’ philosophies. So are all the members of the site like this? No.
There are some who strongly disagree with this mindset. Some do call it toxic. The moderator’s responses to this criticism is always to emphasise that free speech is of greater importance. The free speech argument is again, another smokescreen. It allows the moderators to promote and encourage seriously dangerous conversations while quietly banning those who protest too much.
“I need to CTB but I don’t have a method. [Method A] is just unavailable. I’ve tried so hard with it but it’s never worked out. [Method B], [method C] and [method D] are unbelievably difficult to get your hands on. Everything else is too painful, slow or unreliable.
This isn’t fair. I truly hate it here.” “If you really want to leave this world, the method will find you. And you will not fail. Try [method E].
All you need…” And then this is followed with instructions and a video to give more concrete specifics. Free speech indeed. Free speech that directly contradicts the supposed core policy of not suggesting, helping or encouraging. And this pretence of valuing free speech above all else is persuasive to many on the forum. What many of them don’t realise is that regardless of their views, they’re participating in a percentage game: as I mentioned, the site gets millions of page views a month and of those who sign up, a significant portion are clearly attracted to the most extreme ideas.
That’s the problem. The fact that some members have the freedom to call these ideas toxic without getting banned doesn’t make that problem any better. The stakes are just too high. When a minor is assisted in ending their life on the forum - that’s not the unfortunate price of free speech - it’s a catastrophic moderation failure. Now, the death of Bobby C is a perfect example of this failure.
You see, months before he died, he had been planning how he was going to end his life with the help of others on the site. First, let me show you how the scare-mongering and blatant misinformation about seeking help influenced his thinking: “What are the consequences of failing to CTB? I don’t have a therapist or anything like that. I’m considered ‘normal’ by most people. However, I absolutely do not want to risk hospitalisation if I fail. I’m scared to reach out to any therapist or help service in case they force me into some hospital because they’ll completely prevent my attempts to CTB.”
To most people, this statement would be the reddest of red flags because he’s just admitted that he has never sought help. But the first response was: “Your biggest consequence is going to be either permanent damage or hospitalisation. Both can be avoided with enough research and planning.” There is at least one message that advises caution: “If there’s a part of you that wants to get help, seek it. Don’t make a permanent decision if you’re not entirely sure.
There are people you can talk to who won’t automatically hospitalise you.” However, the person who said this then felt it pertinent to ‘balance’ their statement by describing how terrible and uncaring the mental health services in their country are. And that there was the sole instance where someone suggested to Bobby C that he might reconsider his plans.
It had been mentioned once and that was enough. The rest of the comments are all encouragement along with a large dose of anti-therapy and anti-help dogma. Unfortunately, Bobby C was much more convinced by the suggestion that he should plan properly, so he did.
There’s a whole other thread where he - assisted by a few others - assessed the best approach he should take to carrying through his chosen method. Again, I’m not going to detail the method he used. The only thing I’ll say is that I found it unbelievably shocking due to how violent it was. It has stuck with me ever since and it’s hard not to think about it.
The reaction on the forum was more like admiration. One commenter put it: “you got balls to choose this method.” For me, the most upsetting thing about the site are the ‘Goodbye’ threads. The first page I ever saw - the one by Bobby C - was a goodbye thread.
I didn’t know at the time that reading goodbye threads was going to become a daily experience for me. As you can imagine, goodbye threads are posted by users who are ready to carry through their final plans. They’re avoided by many people on the site who find them too upsetting.
What is particularly notable about them is that you don’t often see anyone make an appeal for the original poster to reconsider. They’re called ‘goodbye’ threads for a reason... because - in the logic of this community - the point of no return has already been well and truly passed.
And on every one of these threads that I’ve read. Every single one. That same prolific, toxic member I mentioned earlier, Cake123, will respond with a variation on this line: “Farewell, I hope that you find the freedom from your suffering that you wish for.”
Now, it’s not hard to see how all of this could be described as a cult. In the case of this forum, there are three telltale signs. First, it has its own highly peculiar alternative ideology, which runs contrary to mainstream thinking: in particular, an inversion of morality: that you shouldn’t stand in the way of someone dying. Second: a ridiculous hostility to mental health professionals and the idea of treatment. You see this a lot with Scientology. Their ideology runs contrary to mainstream mental health treatment, so they viciously attack it.
It’s cult 101: your ideology will seem stronger if you clobber all competing ways of thinking. Third - and most typical for cults, including scientology - cutting people off from their support networks. Medical professionals and therapists? They only care about money and will lock you up if you tell them what you’re thinking. Your parents? They’re the ones who did this to you in the first place by selfishly dragging you into this meaningless world. You can’t trust them. Those trying to prevent you from harming yourself? They’re assaulting your freedom to do what you want with your own body! And to lock you in as much as possible, it is assumed that if you register on the site, you must have exhausted all other options.
I mean, why else would you be here. It would be immoral at this stage to stand in your way. As one forum member put it: “It should be assumed that anyone posting a good bye thread or asking for advice on a method has already considered their "options" to get better… we should give the individuals the benefit of the doubt in assuming that they made the best choice they believe they could have made.”
And just in case all of the above doesn’t work, members are reminded on a daily basis: life is terrible. Death is beautiful. And if you think that I’m exaggerating in any way, here’s a post by Cake123, who the admin actively protects and defends when other people on the forum complain about the toxic nature of their posts. “This is the truth.
The fact is that a peaceful s---icide would solve everything in life and it would be the best outcome possible to pass away peacefully and be permanently free from this existence without having the ability to suffer and struggle in any way. Death is really the only solution when life itself is the problem. The fact that life exists is a cruel mistake and it’s wrong to value life in any way…. and these false beliefs prevent others from achieving true peace which can only be achieved by leaving this world.” This person weighs in on just about every post on the forum to actively encourage others to take their lives as quickly as possible.
As I mentioned already, this person has over 16 thousands posts When one user asked for advice on whether they should spend a lot of time researching how to end their life in a painless way, or just to ‘get it over with’, Cake123’s response was: “I would personally prefer to just try and go for the most straightforward plan possible.” And that leads me to the next inevitable question: How do we know this person isn’t a psychopath? Some middle aged dude who gets a kick out of being involved in as many young people’s deaths as possible? How do we know this person isn’t a card carrying murderer? Because… if there’s one place I think might be likely to attract those kinds of people, it’s this place. It’s not hard to grab an anime character, say you’re a young girl and then tell people “I agree with you.
It’d be better if you die”. And with that in mind, let me now introduce you to the section called ‘Partners’: a listing of people all over the world looking to meet up with someone else in their country so they can do the deed together. People post the country they live in, the method they’d like to use - and anyone interested can send them a private message to work out the details. Only just a few weeks ago, a man named Craig McInally was given a prison sentence in the high court in Glasgow for using the partner section on SS to lure a woman over to his flat under the pretence of helping her practice a s---icide attempt.
He choked her until she became unconscious and then sexually assaulted her. And then he did it again to a different woman. The other day, I found a post by a guy on the partner section who said he’d be willing to fly to you, if you live in a country where a particular method is easier to achieve.
Apparently, this would require some preparation: “We could search for a forest where we can test (this method) together” Something tells me only one person is coming back out of that forest. Now, when considering everything I’ve said so far, one question that pops up is: do the moderators do anything to protect vulnerable users? Let’s dig into that for a moment. First, the site states that only those of ‘sound mind’ will be allowed to join the forum.
Now, the term ‘sound mind’ is used to describe a person’s ability to reasonably understand their surroundings and act rationally in their own interest. It’s an important thing to determine in contentious legal situations, like when a person makes an unusual change to their will or when they refuse medical treatment. Did this person act in ‘sound mind’ or were their actions negatively influenced by something like: coercion, bereavement, shock, extreme stress, psychosis or other type of personal crisis? Second: on the forum’s ‘membership requirement’ section it states that no one with ‘intellectual disabilities…’ can join either.
Now, defining the term ‘intellectual disability’ is problematic here because it is sometimes used way too broadly to refer to any kind of neurodivergence. I suspect admins intended a much narrower definition to those who are unable to function independently without care. However, I can’t be sure, so let’s put that to one side. What’s important is that by placing this rule here, the moderators are trying to make it look like they are taking steps to turn away those who might be very prone to being manipulated by others on the forum. To give a famous example, in the state of Georgia in 2006, a man named Roberto Rocha, a 20 year old who worked as a landscaper was coerced by police into giving a false confession for murder. A murder it was later revealed he couldn’t possibly have committed because he wasn’t in the country at the time.
Roberto’s comprehension skills were assessed to be at the same level as a 12 year old’s. The police extracted the confession by telling him they already knew he was guilty and that it was in his best interests to confess. He did protest at first, he eventually gave way to this pressure. A person like Roberto has the communication skills to pass on an anonymous forum, no problem. But apart from disabilities that affect comprehension: there are all kinds of other vulnerable people out there.
For example, those who suffer from a form of psychosis, like the condition currently defined as schizophrenia. A person with this condition suffering a psychotic episode, might be highly susceptible to suggestion and encouragement during that episode. So, now let’s ask the question: does this forum take appropriate steps to protect those who are vulnerable to coercion? No. It’s difficult to imagine a way they could fail any worse.
I’ll start with the bad, then we’ll move on the appalling and finish the catastrophic. Let’s go back to the term ‘sound mind’. When treating a patient who says they have considered ending their life, a mental health professional will seek to determine whether or not the patient is experiencing a ‘mental health crisis’, which is a state of mind distinctly different to the norm for that person. There’s a massively heightened danger of self harm during a mental health crisis because to the person experiencing it, the future - or any possibility of a future - can get very obscured. Life can seem like a moment-to-moment existence and recovery can seem impossible. As Professor Rory O’ Conner, who leads the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory at the University of Glasgow puts it: “People… take their own lives when they can see no end to their pain, when they feel trapped by it and that there is no way out.
Like physical pain, there is only so much mental pain that we can withstand and, when we reach our limit, something has to give. Sadly, for too many people, it is life that gives.” The thing is, once the crisis is over, this view is nowhere near as black and white. To quote a representative at the Samaritans that I spoke to “A mental health/suicidal crisis can feel very intense, but these feelings are treatable, things change, the feelings pass, things can get better.” To quote Professor Rory O’ Conner again: “For most people, s---icide risk is usually short-term and linked to a specific situation, often an interpersonal crisis. While suicidal thoughts may come back again for some people, the vast majority will make a full recovery.”
So given the nature of a mental health crisis - where the ability to act in one’s own self interest can be temporarily impaired - this question of whether a user is acting in ‘sound mind’ really is, for this forum, THE question. This is something I want to put to those who are active on SS forum now: ‘how can you determine if someone is of sound mind, since all they have to do is tick a box saying they are when they register? How long does that tickbox last? If someone ticks it once, is it still true six months later? How do you know that when you are providing instructions or encouragement to another member on the forum, that they’re of sound mind at that moment? Worse: how do you know that a person you’ve been speaking to for months, who is now saying they want to end their lives isn’t someone who has an abundance of communication skills but, unbeknownst to you, has a condition that makes them highly susceptibility to suggestion - someone who might find it difficult to critically assess a statement like “Death is really the only solution when life itself is the problem. it’s wrong to value life in any way”? So with all this in mind, where does the balance of harm fall? If people lie during registration by ticking the box or ignoring the rule, does that mean that they’re fair game? Many on the site seem to think it does. When challenged on the forum by newcomers, they point to the tickbox and the rule about intellectual disabilities as sufficient protection. But, this is all academic… because I haven’t yet got to the catastrophic.
You see, the question of registration is immaterial, because the conversations on SS are publicly available for everyone to see. And given that it has between 6 and 10 million page views a month - this raises an even bigger question for those active on the forum right now: how do you know that the conversations you have participated in on SS haven’t directly led to the death of multiple people with intellectual disabilities, people experiencing a mental health crisis, people suffering from some kind of psychosis or minors - none of whom ever even tried to sign up to the site because they didn’t need to? You can’t know. And this is the point. The point that makes me confident there is no possible justification on moral grounds to continue as an active member on SS. And if this makes you angry, that anger should be directed at the moderators of SS.
Because they already weighed this up and they’ve decided that it’s fine as is. No one should be protected from this information. And to this point, just a month ago, a group of users opened up a new thread to plead for the forum to be made private. Some pointed out that this would protect minors, those in crisis or those who might act impulsively. The site admin’s response? “Not enough moderators to take care of the huge waves of new registrations that will occur as soon as we make the forum private.
We have a lot of non-member guests here and every time we made the forum private in the past, the registration queue would turn into 3 digit numbers very quickly.” Cake 123’s response: “…people are already suffering enough without having to make an account on here…” Everyone’s got their priorities, I suppose. — So I imagine at this point you are probably thinking: Who runs this site? And How has it not been shut down yet? Before I get to that, I need to now discuss the instruction threads - the part of the site that most obviously crosses the line into illegality in most countries.
As you can imagine, these threads provide instructions on the various different ways you can end your life. They’re very detailed, very clinical and often tough to read. Now, here I need to be careful. Guidelines on media reporting on this topic are very clear that it is dangerous to openly discuss methods and names of services because those in crisis may take that information and use it immediately without hearing anything else I have to say. For this reason, my description here is going to be vague in places - but the substance of my point will remain intact. Let me map this out: you see, when you first arrive on the forum, one of the first things you’ll notice is how much the site and many of its members keep pushing a certain method.
A method that is, to put it lightly, complicated to achieve. After enough exposure to this particular conversation, you’ll inevitably follow the breadcrumb trail to the relevant instruction thread that promises to detail how to accomplish this method. However, these instructions, unlike many of the others, are incomplete. In order to get the complete instructions, you are then directed to a different forum - which I’m going to call SS2 - that requires a subscription of nearly $100 to join.
Now, having worked in technology for a long time and knowing a thing or two about social media, I have a pretty decent understanding of traffic funnels. And to me, this provides an potential alternative explanation as to why the SS forum is not made private. Because it would close off an enormous amount of traffic that would inevitably find its way to the SS2 subscription service.
So, to put it mildly, I would love some clarification from those who run both forums - both of whom will definitely see this video - about the exact nature of their relationship. Now, along with the instruction threads, SS also has a poorly concealed system for guiding you to sellers who can provide the highly advertised method I’ve been speaking about. It is one of the top topics of conversation. Here’s a recent post I found of a user offering to provide a source to buy from.
Names of specific sellers are described using acronyms. For example, I found an obscure archive where users discussed buying from ‘A’, which at the time apparently stood for Alejandro. Here’s a screenshot of the site admin discussing Alejandro openly, which means the site admin is actively participating in helping users find sellers.
What is also clear is that contact details for these sellers change constantly to stay ahead of the authorities. In a very recent forum post: one person asks ‘Does anyone have the new email address for D?’. It’s then hinted obliquely that you shouldn’t really mention the existence of these sources in public threads. There’s actually a rule on the site that says ‘it is against forum rules to post links to sources or to mention where you can find sources in the public forum’. Well, that’s interesting.
There’s a place where you can find sources? So I created a new profile on the site and eventually found a guy who sold me the means for a specific method, with zero questions asked. I documented this entire process - but of course I can’t show it here. The method I purchased - which is supposed to be restricted in the UK by the way - arrived at my door just as I was finishing up this video. So, who is responsible for setting up SS? Well, thankfully in this case, we do have answers. In late 2021, the New York Times published an expose on the forum titled ‘Where the despairing log on and learn ways to die’ by Megan Twohey and Gabriel Dance. You might recognise Megan Twohey as one of the two investigators who broke the story about the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
There’s a movie about her now. Anyway, in this expose, the identities of the two people behind the site were revealed for the first time. The founder, who went by the nickname Marquise, was revealed to be a man named Lamarcus Small, who was 28 at the time the report came out.
The co-founder, Serge, was revealed to be a man named Diego Galante, who was 29. The report also verified 45 deaths which they were able to directly link to the SS forum - three of whom were minors. And with Bobby C. I can now add a fourth to that list.
In a subsequent article, the New York Times mentioned that they have linked dozens more deaths as well. We also know, due to an earlier Buzzfeed article with Lamarcus and Diego back when their identities weren’t known - in a move I imagine they now regret - they admitted to being responsible for setting up a number of other forums for… wait for it… Incels. I’m not going to name the forums here… but there are quite a few of them and they get a lot of traffic. They offer young men a place for misogynist, racist, homophobic and anti-semetic venting with a heavy dose of pseudo-scientific nonsense thrown in too. The main incel site is for raging about women. Another is a forum for those who are unemployed.
Then there’s a body image forum where guys post shots of themselves so other guys can comment on whether they’d be likely to attract a girl. All handled in an unhelping and often toxic way, with a funnel for the most despairing that leads straight to SS. According to a report titled ‘The Incelosphere’, by the centre for countering digital hate, this network has been linked to ‘at least one mass shooting’ too.
It’s also worth mentioning that Lamarcus and Diego both identify as incels. With the exception of SS, all these forums are exclusively for men. So if you’re a woman currently on the SS forum, I would take a moment to reflect on this fact. Of all the sites these guys set up: the only one to which you are admitted to join - is the one that encourages you to kill yourself.
So, after the New York Times report came out, both Diego and Lamarcus announced they were leaving the forum and handing it over to someone else instead. The new person is the admin I’ve been discussing this whole time. We don’t yet know a lot about this person. It could just be Diego or Lamarcus using a different protonmail account.
Who knows? So to the next question: how is this site still up and why do search engines like Google still index it? Well, at present, they’re not legally liable for this content. It’s a protection afforded by Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code, which shields platforms like Google or Facebook from being held liable for content published by their users. It’s a very important law and, many argue, vital to the ability of the internet to function as we know it. Trying to discuss the pros and cons of section 230 here would take us way too far from the main point of this video. Suffice it to say that amending it is, in practical terms, incredibly difficult to achieve and doing so would not be without negative consequences. However, expect to be hearing a lot about this over the coming year, since there are already two cases being considered by the supreme court right now that revolve around section 230.
And there are more coming after that. I’ve put some links in the description for those who want to learn more. Anyway, although it’s not illegal for Google to index SS, that’s not to say they won’t bow to pressure from their users - us - as long as we shout loudly enough. I personally think Google, Microsoft and others should stop indexing this site because by doing so, they are providing vulnerable people, as well as minors with a direct link to instructions to end their own lives. Yes, legally they can… but they shouldn’t. There is an increasing need for action.
In the UK, among 15-19 year olds, the rate of taking one’s own life has sharply increased by 35% throughout 2020 and 2021. In the US, the overall rate has increased around 35% since 1999, with 15-24 year old’s being at higher risk than other age groups. Given these increases, and how SS crosses the line in so many ways, other attempts to halt its activities are emerging. It’s not illegal in most places to encourage online harm. That - at present - broadly falls within the boundaries of free speech in the US and Europe. But in most countries, it is illegal to provide instructions and help.
So with that in mind, in October 2022 in the US, a new bipartisan bill called the Stop Online Assisted s---icide Forums act was introduced to the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Lori Trahan. My name is Lori Trahan and I represent Massachusetts' third congressional district in the congress. What motivated you to introduce this bill? We know that we’re facing a mental health crisis in our nation. s---icide is dangerously on the rise. We need to be meeting the mental health needs of our children. Far too many families have lost a child, or a loved one because rather than help individuals, they push them towards self harm instead.
Tantacrul: The New York Times report: did that play a big part in making you aware of it? Lori: absolutely! I’ll never forget the morning that I listened to the ‘Daily’, which is the New York Times podcast. That’s what stopped me - I was getting ready for work one morning. I was in Washington.
I sat on my bed and listened to the whole thing and thought ‘how could this be’. And I just thought it was gonna be, y’know ‘ok, folks don’t know that this is happening. I’m going to write to the department of justice and get this shut down’. And then I was reminded that this is a complex legal territory that we’re in, so it wasn’t just so straight forward.
But, y’know in the process of figuring out what our next move was, y’know? I spoke to many of the moms and the families who lost a loved one, which only emboldened my staff and me to continue the work and look at a legislative option, which is ultimately what we’ve produced after eleven months. Tantacrul: I’m kinda curious. You mentioned that there are some, I guess, technicalities that are quite awkward to overcome. How would the bill work and how can it be effective. Lori: It will finally make it a felony for anyone who uses communications like online forums to assist in another person’s attempt to die by s---icide.
And most importantly, it gives the department of justice the authority it needs to pursue cases against s---icide assistance forums. People’s lives are at risk with every day that passes with these sketchy websites that are operating in a legal grey area. I’m committed to working with representatives Katie Porter, Mike Carey and Chris Stewart, who I introduced this legislation with, to get it passed as soon as possible.
Tantacrul: because the site is anonymous and also because the people who are on the site, by the very nature of the topic, are very very vulnerable and very very young, it just seems like the perfect breeding ground for someone who is not giving advice. Someone who is a malicious actor. Someone who is there to do bad. Lori: I think the unfortunate reality is that these malicious actors is that they exist in real life and online and what the forum’s uniquely do is give these individuals direct access to users who are in crisis.
Often young people, who are experiencing some of the hardest battles in their lives and who desperately need help but rather than offer assistance or direct them towards resources to get the help that they need - these bad actors encourage them to harm themselves and then assist them. That’s the kind of behaviour we need to get rid of and that’s the kind of authority we give the Department of Justice to hold these bad actors accountable. So, this legislation isn’t about, um, trying to shut down forums focused on discussing s---icide.
I mean, there’s real value in people being able to come together and share their stories but what’s dangerous is when people think they’re logging onto a forum that will be helpful to them but instead find a forum focused on pushing them through material support to end their own lives and that’s what we need to end. In the UK, in 2020, a man named Joe Nihil took his own life aided by the forum. In the note he left behind, he specifically mentioned the forum and his belief that it should be closed down. His mother Catherine and sister-in-law, Melany, along with Angela Stevens the mother of another victim in the UK, have been fighting for stronger legislation for years. Catherine: Joe was on there for ten days.
His first post was that he was feeling really down. He told them about his past relationship. And, they said ‘oh, it’s never going to get better.
Yes, your life’s basically not worth living any more’. They tell you that your parents are wrong. They tell you that the doctors are wrong. The mental health teams are wrong - that once you get to feeling that low, that’s it.
Take your life. Finish it. I’ve suffered every day and I know the rest of my family suffer every day. And it just destroys you. Angela: Brett told me that he was going on a short holiday.
When he didn’t return, I reported him missing. And the police told me that he’d been found in Scotland. Police Scotland got in touch with me and told me that he’d been on a s---icide forum and they actually mentioned the name of the site.
So, in the March of 2020, we went into lockdown. Because we knew as a family of this site, my youngest daughter who was very very close to Brett, she just couldn’t come to terms with his death and she actually went on to [name of site] herself and purchased [name of method]. Tantacrul: to prove that it could be done? Angela: No Tantacrul: Oh, ok Angela: To join her brother. Tantacrul: And, you caught her? Angela: She told one of her friends that she was feeling really low and he actually contacted the police to do a welfare check and when the police went to my daughters house, she then admitted that she had purchased this stuff and we were all just an absolute wreck. We were a wreck. I should mention, just as an aside, that because these women are taking a stand, the site admin on SS likes to goad them about the death of their children on social media.
Anyway, inspired by Catherine and Melany, their local MP, Richard Burgon, presented a motion on the topic in 2020 Since then, after a lot of discussion, the present government in the UK has introduced the Online Safety bill, broad new legislation, which is currently working its way through parliament. This is quite different legislation to that being introduced in the US. It has had a rough ride so far due to - again - concerns about safeguarding free speech, which led to some big changes in the proposal in 2022. The most contentious part, which has since been taken out of the bill, required sites to remove content the government deemed harmful, even though that content isn’t illegal. However, in its place, the Government included a new amendment that would make it illegal to encourage someone else to self-harm.
And if that gets passed into law, that’s a very big step. And just as I was finalising this video, on the 16th January, a large backbench revolt in the Tory party succeeded in forcing the government to add a new provision that would make social media bosses face prison if they fail to protect under 18’s from damaging online content. The next step involves what will probably be a lengthy passage through the House of Lords. This whole story is nowhere near over. There’s a lot left to be uncovered. A lot left to be resolved and we’ll just have to see what happens over the coming months.
But my focus is on what happened to Bobby C and to try and raise awareness about how dangerous and manipulative those who run the SS forum are. My appeal is simple. If you are not on it, never seek it out. If you are on it, please leave. The moderators have failed everyone who joined the site in good faith. They made the whole thing publicly available, including instructions on how to end your life.
They chastised the voices of reason while encouraging its most toxic members. The incels who started it, have ostensibly handed it over to people who are equally as toxic, stupid, uncaring and unqualified as they were. It encourages isolation from your family and advises against seeking help. It has people who are empowered to tell you that life is meaningless. It is a perfect breeding ground for psychos and abusers. It actively discourages recovery.
It has the blood of 4 minors - 4 that we know about - on its hands. It is important to point out that there really are a number of people on the forum who are not toxic. Who are just looking for a place where they can speak freely and feel listened to. The reason they are there is partly due to the unhelpful stigma surrounding this topic.
People are very often ashamed to discuss feelings of wanting to end their own life openly, which is a poor reflection of society as a whole. To name one stigma mentioned by Professor Rory O’ Conner, it’s way too commonly derided as a selfish act, which in turn, makes it far less likely that people will bring it up for fear of being chastised or shunned. Instead, he suggests that the act is way more likely to be carried out in a moment of desperation by those in crisis, who can no longer withstand severe mental pain and who are unable to see beyond that pain at that moment.
For those who are feeling hopeless, you should speak to a few people before making any other plans. Those who say otherwise are probably not acting in your real interest. I’ve put a number of links in the description below but there may very easily be local options you can easily access with a quick search engine check.
Also, remember that if, for some reason, you don’t connect with one mental health specialist, this doesn’t mean that seeking help is pointless. If one person doesn’t succeed in helping you, someone else most likely can. Please don’t try to go it alone. Recovery is possible. Things can get better and there are people in the world who do want the best for you. And if you feel you are in crisis, there are experts who can at least provide you with a better sense of your options.
Nothing bad will come from speaking to them. Again see the links in the description. And to everyone else watching, I have a final thought. There should be no reason a person seeks out an anonymous forum to find comfort. There are things we can do directly to combat this by applying protocols of our own.
Do we know people who we suspect are in pain? Can we listen to them? Are there ways we can just make the world a little nicer? Can we be a little less aggressive when others do or say things we find irritating? Can we just cut people some slack sometimes because you never know? They could be having a tough time right now due to problems you can’t see. This is the harder road to take but highly rewarding too. A report from the International Association for s---icide prevention put it best: “Every step closer can connect someone to life and the help they want. Sometimes those steps are big. Sometimes all it takes is a smile.” That’s everything I have to say.