Internet crackdown on suicide chat rooms

The federal government introduced new laws in Parliament today to crack down on Internet suicide chat rooms.

It is now a criminal offence to use the Internet to counsel or incite suicide; legislation includes a maximum penalty of $110,000 for an individual.

Parliamentary secretary for finance and administration, Peter Slipper, said the proposed new offences would cover use of a carriage service, including the Internet, to access, transmit or make available material that counsels or incites suicide.

It would also cover material that promoted and provided instruction on a particular method of suicide. Possession, production or supply of that material would also be covered.

"Currently, there is a range of easily accessible Internet sites and Internet chat rooms that provide explicit instructions on methods of committing suicide and, in the case of Internet chat rooms, sometimes contain actual discussions where one person or even a group of persons urge another to commit suicide," Slipper said.

"Studies have shown that in some cases such Internet chat room discussions have led to a person attempting suicide, sometimes successfully."

"The proposed offences reflect the harm that can be done by those who use the Internet with destructive intent and they will assist in preventing the use of the Internet in this way to encourage vulnerable individuals to take their own lives."

Slipper said merely advocating or debating law reform on voluntary euthanasia or other suicide-related issues would not be affected by the proposed changes.

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