Interesting post from Dr. David Neubaurer about a teenager who got advice from an online forum about the sure-fire way to successfully commit suicide.
The question: is this simply the exercise of free speech, as one of his commenters suggests?
Or does this fall appropriately into the list of the numerous ways speech isn't really free. (Shouting "fire" in a crowded movie theatre being the shop-worn example.)
This reminds me of the pro-anoerxia forums that Shrinkette has mentioned several times on her blog.
It's one thing to position these groups as "support" groups that show sufferers they are not alone and all. But the implication in someone needing support and to know they are not alone is that indeed they have a problem or condition. As soon as these groups or forums start advising someone on how to perpetuate their condition, or exacerbate it...then how exactly are they delivering on the "support" they claim to be offering?
All that being said: what would I do about it? Very little probably. I mean that I don't like the idea of government monitoring or controlling online groups, and I can't really see a way that you would be able to otherwise prevent determined people from finding information such as this online.
Even when you're talking about monitoring online chatter about violence, for example, don't they have to wait until someone actually makes a move to do something before authorities can actually move in and shut them down? ("Doing" something can include buying materials, for instance.) When does such talk become no longer cheap and become something actionable?