Facts and Factoids


THE LITTLE DEATHNET STORY THAT GREW
Why many people now believe that teens can login and learn how to off themselves
by
K.K. CAMPBELL

May 11 1995 -- Last December, eyeNET presented readers that most irreplaceable of Internet resources, the "How To Kill Yourself" file. It gives detailed instructions on creative ways to end one's life. It has circulated the net for years, uploaded to newsgroups and found languishing in FTP sites such as Canadian universities, where it is particularly useful come exam time.

Of it, I wrote: "Some of the ways are serious, drawn from references like Derek Humphry, publisher of Hemlock -- and some aren't. It's not hard to guess which is which ... One wonders how long before the Hard Copy-esque legions who staff mainstream media news outlets discover it: 'Suicide Tips On The Information Superhighway! Film at 11!'"

Let's fast-forward: Sunday, March 12. Out at Bathurst and College St, enjoying the spring-like day, I spied a somewhat startling Toronto Sun front page headline -- startling not only because it was actually more than one word, but because it read: SUICIDE GURU USING INTERNET TO TELL TEENS HOW TO DIE.

Looking around and not seeing eye staff snickering and spluttering in doorways, I deduced it was not one of those phony mock-up papers and dug out some coin to read it. (The article now proudly adorns wall space in eyeNET's luxurious HQ.)

This Toronto Sun "exclusive" was bylined Steve Chase of the Calgary Sun. It opens: "An American suicide advocate has teamed up with his Canadian counterpart to flog a how-to manual across the Internet, the Sunday Sun has learned."

Personally, I'm of the opinion that the Toronto Sun might better serve readers if, in its next net story, the phrase "the Sunday Sun has learned" is immediately followed by the phrase "how to login."

I realized they were writing not about the How To Kill Yourself Guide but DeathNET. DeathNET is one of the many informational/research tools on the World Wide Web. It deals with the controversial "right to die" issue.

One might have just chalked this up to another sensationalistic pro-censorship Sun story, except this one would eventually be picked up around the world. Millions of people were told DeathNET is helping teens use the Internet to learn how to kill themselves.

THE UNBLINKING NEWS SYSTEM

DeathNET --