Alert: the dark side of chats--internet without boundaries

Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. 2009;46(3):162-6.


The web has some unique advantages: It eliminates barriers of space and time; information flows quicker and is more accessible to all; the markets are more effective; community and interpersonal communication is more evolved. However, the web is also anonymous, without supervision, freedom of speech is exploited, minors and other web users are exploited, racism and prejudice are encouraged. These manifestations of violence not only hurt many people but actually pose a threat to the existence of the web as a place for exchanging ideas and thoughts, as a tool for relaying messages in a liberal and democratic fashion. Today, it is not legally possible to stop any discussion group or chats, like the one in which Eran participated, which develop dialogues regarding death or suicide. A wise and proper use of the web will be achieved by agreements and not enforcement. It is a process of education in its widest meaning that will be accomplished through the acceptance of norms. Proper use of the web will be possible when all sides--users, site owners and suppliers--willingly commit to values of mutual respect, decency and protection of individual fundamental rights to freedom. The web, which is a great blessing to the communication between people, organizations and cultures, carries with it substantial risks, especially to young users. The rapid expansion of the web and the increase in the number of users has brought many social-ideological dangers alongside the many advantages. In order to deal with these issues, a few years ago I initiated an association known as Eshnav ( which acts to increase public awareness to the risks and dangers of the web. Eshnav's mission, established to commemorate Eran's memory, is to promote public awareness to the positive and negative aspects of using the web on society and its values, and to promote the wise and safe use of the web. Eran was in great distress and needed empathy, encouragement and support. Sadly, when his mind was filled with suicidal thoughts he stumbled upon a group on the web that embraced the culture of death and suicide discussions. In his darkest moments, when he was on the verge of an abyss, he was probably pushed by these discussions into his death, and he was only 19-years-old. When Eshnav was created we saw the dangers of an Internet with no boundaries, a place where this remarkable technology was grossly misused. This is from the association's statement: "In a world without fences and boundaries clearer rules of conduct are needed." We emphasized that "the web is like a new world that has yet to determine its own boundaries. As such, it poses new challenges, both moral and ideological, which cannot be met based on past experience as this phenomenon is still too new and uncharted. We must do the utmost to be vigil about making the Internet as safe as possible even when this new frontier is constantly shifting and evolving." Let us bow our heads in sadness in memory of Eran whose strength did not withstand the great distress he was in, and who let himself be dragged by the death culture and darkness on the web into an untimely grave. We shall find strength in our determination to create a responsible web community in which freedom of speech will not be abused to hurt the individual rights of each and every human being to life, respect, reputation and privacy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Grief
  • Head Injuries, Penetrating / prevention & control
  • Head Injuries, Penetrating / psychology
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Social Support*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Wounds, Gunshot / prevention & control
  • Wounds, Gunshot / psychology