You might have heard of this story already, but I just read a post on Valleywag about a teenager who committed live suicide on the popular American video site Justin.tv.
Abraham Biggs was an avid Lifecaster on the site (essentially, thousands of people are creating their own life-reality TV shows and posting them to video sites across the web. Their every move, feeling and life experience). On the Wednesday prior to his death, he posted a suicide note to the site, and then took a handful of sleeping pills and sat on his bed (in front of a streaming webcam). Users watched the live video and some thought it was a joke, others edged him on during the entire process.
Nobody called the police or notified authorities.
Hours later, someone found him and the medics / police showed up to try and revive him (again, all shown on the streaming webcam).
Justin.TV CEO Michael Seibel has made no official comment other than to say that any video with "objectionable" content is flagged and remove. Talk about an understatement.
This is tragic. For the family and the people watching the broadcast. However Valleywag did point out that a few users edged him on and should be flagged. It seems that when we are online, we hide behind the veil of a username and might not really think too much about our actions.
As the web grows in strength and user generated content expands exponentially, I expect that the generation of scary, questionable and personal content will come more and more into question. When anyone can broadcast their own story and suicide, the web can become a pretty scary place. There is no way for anyone to stop something like this and hopefully this incident doesn't generate a slew of copies.
Few people talk about the downside of user-generated content. This is it.