Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy
Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts

Monday, January 15, 2024

The man helping prevent suicide with Google adverts

Looi, M.-K. (2023).

Here are two excerpts:

Always online

A big challenge in suicide prevention is that people often experience suicidal crises at times when they’re away from clinical facilities, says Nick Allen, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon.

“It’s often in the middle of the night, so one of the great challenges is how can we be there for someone when they really need us, which is not necessarily when they’re engaged with clinical services.”

Telemedicine and other digital interventions came to prominence at the height of the pandemic, but “there’s an app for that” does not always match the patient in need at the right time. Says Onie, “The missing link is using existing infrastructure and habits to meet them where they are.”

Where they are is the internet. “When people are going through suicidal crises they often turn to the internet for information. And Google has the lion’s share of the search business at the moment,” says Allen, who studies digital mental health interventions (and has had grants from Google for his research).

Google’s core business stores information from searches, using it to fuel a highly effective advertising network in which companies pay to have links to their websites and products appear prominently in the “sponsored” sections at the top of all relevant search results.

The company holds 27.5% of the digital advertising market—earning the company around $224bn from search advertising alone in 2022.

If it knows enough about us to serve up relevant adverts, then it knows when a user is displaying red flag behaviour for suicide. Onie set out to harness this.

“It’s about the ‘attention economy,’” he says, “There’s so much information, there’s so much noise. How do we break through and make sure that the first thing that people see when they’re contemplating suicide is something that could be helpful?”


At its peak the campaign was responding to over 6000 searches a day for each country. And the researchers saw a high level of response.

Typically, most advertising campaigns see low engagement in terms of clickthrough rates (the number of people that actually click on an advert when they see it). Industry benchmarks consider 3.17% a success. The Black Dog campaign saw 5.15% in Australia and 4.02% in the US. Preliminary data show Indonesia to be even higher—as much as 12%.

Because this is an advertising campaign, another measure is cost effectiveness. Google charges the advertiser per click on its advert, so the more engaged an audience is (and thus what Google considers to be a relevant advert to a relative user) the higher the charge. Black Dog’s campaign saw such a high number of users seeing the ads, and such high numbers of users clicking through, that the cost was below that of the industry average of $2.69 a click—specifically, $2.06 for the US campaign. Australia was higher than the industry average, but early data indicate Indonesia was delivering $0.86 a click.

I could not find a free pdf.  The link above works, but is paywalled. Sorry. :(

Friday, January 21, 2022

Is a new kind of religion forming on the internet?

Rebecca Jennings
Originally posted 14 DEC 21

Here is an excerpt:

2020 was the first year on record that the majority of Americans said they did not belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque; from the 1930s to the turn of the 21st century, around 70 percent of Americans did belong to one. Americans, particularly younger ones, increasingly report that they have no religious preference, or as some have put it, it’s “the rise of the nones.” But perhaps “none” doesn’t quite tell the whole story.

The religion of the internet posits questions like, “what’s the harm in believing?” and “why shouldn’t I be prepared for the worst?” The deeper you go, the harder those questions are to answer.

Perhaps it’s all because of the Puritans. They were the ones, after all, who consecrated the American legacy of individualism, piety, and hard work at the expense of all else. Or maybe it came out of the recurrent phenomena of Protestant-led Great Awakenings that have peppered US history since before it was a country, social movements that preached the importance of one’s personal relationship with God outside of organized rituals and ceremonies.

“It was the idea that you could perfect yourself, your health, and your circumstances,” explains Mary Wrenn, an economics professor at the University of the West of England Bristol who studies neoliberalism and religion. This eventually culminated in the prosperity gospel, known best for its charismatic leaders preaching financial wealth and the widespread practice of manifesting, or the idea that in order to make positive things happen in your life, all you have to do is pretend as though they already are. “It’s during periods of economic crisis that we really see it start to flourish,” says Wrenn. Because many of the churches where it’s preached can be attended virtually, the message travels much further. “It’s a lot easier to have believers when you don’t have to physically be in a church. The portability of the message is what makes people believers in the prosperity gospel even when they’re not necessarily regular churchgoers.”

The same could be said for the internet, where spiritual trends proliferate much like cultural and political ones. In fact, the latest iteration of New Thought’s founding principles is inseparable from the internet: Russo, the anthropology professor, notes that as social media has become the dominant cultural force in our society, ideologies are spreading between people who may have vastly different beliefs and backgrounds, but who show up on each other’s feeds and relate in new ways.

“It’s a mishmash of different Christian and non-Western beliefs and aesthetics, but this stuff — good and evil, prosperity — are present in all religious systems worldwide, and always have been,” he says. “Even our most fervent atheists or agnostics are still interested in morality. It’s the same idea, different packaging.”

These binaries espoused by internet spirituality — good and evil, demonic and angelic, abundance and poverty — are reinforced everywhere in culture, and not only in the context of religion. “‘The demonic’ is one of those very superficial distinctions that really has a lot to do with, ‘who’s your customer? Who are you trying to frighten?’ It can stand in the kind of generalized force of evil in a very effective way, regardless of what the specifics are,” explains Russo. “It works on people not necessarily because they’ve read the Bible, but because they watch Harry Potter or read Tolkien or play Dungeons and Dragons.”

Monday, August 16, 2021

Therapist Targeted Googling: Characteristics and Consequences for the Therapeutic Relationship

Cox, K. E., Simonds, L. M., & Moulton-Perkins, A. 
(2021).  Professional Psychology: 
Research and Practice. Advance online publication. 


Therapist-targeted googling (TTG) refers to a patient searching online to find information about their therapist. The present study investigated TTG prevalence and characteristics in a sample of adult psychotherapy clients. Participants (n = 266) who had attended at least one session with a therapist completed an anonymous online survey about TTG prevalence, motivations, and perceived impact on the therapeutic relationship. Two-thirds of the sample had conducted TTG. Those participants who were having therapy privately had worked with more than one therapist, or were having sessions more often than weekly were significantly more likely to conduct TTG; this profile was particularly common among patients who were having psychodynamic psychotherapy. Motivations included wanting to see if the therapist is qualified, curiosity, missing the therapist, and wanting to know them better. Nearly a quarter who undertook TTG thought the findings impacted the therapeutic relationship but only one in five had disclosed TTG to the therapist. TTG beyond common sense consumerism can be conceptualized as a patient’s attempt to attain closeness to the therapist but may result in impacts on trust and ability to be open. Disclosures of TTG may constitute important therapeutic material. 

Impact Statement

This study suggests that there are multiple motivations for clients searching online for information about their therapist. It highlights the need for practitioners to carefully consider the information available about them online and the importance of client searching to the therapeutic relationship.

Here is the conclusion:

In this study, most participants searched for information about their therapist. Curiosity and commonsense consumerism might explain much of this activity. We argue that there is evidence that some of this might be motivated by moments of vulnerability between sessions to regain a connection with the therapist. We also suggest that the discovery of challenging information during vulnerability might represent difficulties for the patient that are not disclosed to the therapist due to feelings of guilt and shame. Further work is needed to understand TTG, the implications on the therapeutic relationship, and how therapists work with disclosures of TTG in a way that does not provoke more shame in the patient, but which also allows therapists to effectively manage therapeutic closeness and their own vulnerability.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Myth of Freedom

Yuval Noah Harari
The Guardian
Originally posted September 14, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Unfortunately, “free will” isn’t a scientific reality. It is a myth inherited from Christian theology. Theologians developed the idea of “free will” to explain why God is right to punish sinners for their bad choices and reward saints for their good choices. If our choices aren’t made freely, why should God punish or reward us for them? According to the theologians, it is reasonable for God to do so, because our choices reflect the free will of our eternal souls, which are independent of all physical and biological constraints.

This myth has little to do with what science now teaches us about Homo sapiens and other animals. Humans certainly have a will – but it isn’t free. You cannot decide what desires you have. You don’t decide to be introvert or extrovert, easy-going or anxious, gay or straight. Humans make choices – but they are never independent choices. Every choice depends on a lot of biological, social and personal conditions that you cannot determine for yourself. I can choose what to eat, whom to marry and whom to vote for, but these choices are determined in part by my genes, my biochemistry, my gender, my family background, my national culture, etc – and I didn’t choose which genes or family to have.

This is not abstract theory. You can witness this easily. Just observe the next thought that pops up in your mind. Where did it come from? Did you freely choose to think it? Obviously not. If you carefully observe your own mind, you come to realise that you have little control of what’s going on there, and you are not choosing freely what to think, what to feel, and what to want.

Though “free will” was always a myth, in previous centuries it was a helpful one. It emboldened people who had to fight against the Inquisition, the divine right of kings, the KGB and the KKK. The myth also carried few costs. In 1776 or 1945 there was relatively little harm in believing that your feelings and choices were the product of some “free will” rather than the result of biochemistry and neurology.

But now the belief in “free will” suddenly becomes dangerous. If governments and corporations succeed in hacking the human animal, the easiest people to manipulate will be those who believe in free will.

The info is here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Companies should treat cybersecurity as a matter of ethics

Thomas Lee
The San Francisco Chronicle
Originally posted September 2, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

An ethical code will force companies to rethink how they approach research and development. Instead of making stuff first and then worrying about data security later, companies will start from the premise that they need to protect consumer privacy before they start designing new products and services, Harkins said.

There is precedent for this. Many professional organizations like the American Medical Association and American Bar Association require members to follow a code of ethics. For example, doctors must pledge above all else not to harm a patient.

A code of ethics for cybersecurity will no doubt slow the pace of innovation, said Maurice Schweitzer, a professor of operations, information and decisions at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Ultimately, though, following such a code could boost companies’ reputations, Schweitzer said. Given the increasing number and severity of hacks, consumers will pay a premium for companies dedicated to security and privacy from the get-go, he said.

In any case, what’s wrong with taking a pause so we can catch our breath? The ethical quandaries technology poses to mankind are only going to get more complex as we increasingly outsource our lives to thinking machines.

That’s why a code of ethics is so important. Technology may come and go, but right and wrong never changes.

The article is here.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Genitals photographed, shared by UPMC hospital employees: a common violation in health care industry

David Wenner
The Patriot News/PennLive.com
Updated September 16, 2017

You might assume anyone in healthcare would know better. Smart phones aren't new. Health care providers have long wrestled with the patient privacy- and medical ethics-related ramifications. Yet once again, smart phones have contributed to a very public black eye for a health care provider.

UPMC Bedford in Everett, Pa. has been cited by the Pennsylvania Department of Health after employees snapped and shared photos and video of an unconscious patient who needed surgery to remove an object from a genital. Numerous employees, including two doctors, were disciplined for being present.

It's not the first time unauthorized photos were taken of a hospital patient and shared or posted on social media.

  • Last year, a nurse in New York lost her license after taking a smart phone photo of an unconscious patient's penis and sending it to some of her co-workers. She also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges.
  • The Los Angeles Times in 2013 wrote about an anesthesiologist in California who put a sticker of a mustache on the face of an unconscious female patient, with a nurse's aid then taking a picture. That article also reported allegations of a medical device salesman taking photos of a naked woman without her knowledge.
  • In 2010, employees at a hospital in Florida were disciplined after taking and posting online photos of a shark attack victim who didn't survive. No one was fired, with the hospital concluding the incident was the "result of poor judgement rather than malicious intent," according to an article in Radiology Today. 
  • Many such incidents have involved nursing homes. An article published by the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination in 2016 stated, "In the shadow of the social media revolution, a disturbing trend has begun to emerge of [nursing home] employees posting and sharing degrading images of their residents on social media." An investigation published by ProPublica in 2015 detailed 47 cases since 2012 of workers at nursing homes and assisted living facilities sharing photos or videos of residents on Facebook. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Everybody lies: how Google search reveals our darkest secrets

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
The Guardian
Originally published July 9, 2017

Everybody lies. People lie about how many drinks they had on the way home. They lie about how often they go to the gym, how much those new shoes cost, whether they read that book. They call in sick when they’re not. They say they’ll be in touch when they won’t. They say it’s not about you when it is. They say they love you when they don’t. They say they’re happy while in the dumps. They say they like women when they really like men. People lie to friends. They lie to bosses. They lie to kids. They lie to parents. They lie to doctors. They lie to husbands. They lie to wives. They lie to themselves. And they damn sure lie to surveys. Here’s my brief survey for you:

Have you ever cheated in an exam?

Have you ever fantasised about killing someone?

Were you tempted to lie?

Many people underreport embarrassing behaviours and thoughts on surveys. They want to look good, even though most surveys are anonymous. This is called social desirability bias. An important paper in 1950 provided powerful evidence of how surveys can fall victim to such bias. Researchers collected data, from official sources, on the residents of Denver: what percentage of them voted, gave to charity, and owned a library card. They then surveyed the residents to see if the percentages would match. The results were, at the time, shocking. What the residents reported to the surveys was very different from the data the researchers had gathered. Even though nobody gave their names, people, in large numbers, exaggerated their voter registration status, voting behaviour, and charitable giving.

The article is here.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The shame of public shaming

Russell Blackford
The Conversation
Originally published May 6, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Shaming is on the rise. We’ve shifted – much of the time – to a mode of scrutinising each other for purity. Very often, we punish decent people for small transgressions or for no real transgressions at all. Online shaming, conducted via the blogosphere and our burgeoning array of social networking services, creates an environment of surveillance, fear and conformity.

The making of a call-out culture

I noticed the trend – and began to talk about it – around five years ago. I’d become increasingly aware of cases where people with access to large social media platforms used them to “call out” and publicly vilify individuals who’d done little or nothing wrong. Few onlookers were prepared to support the victims. Instead, many piled on with glee (perhaps to signal their own moral purity; perhaps, in part, for the sheer thrill of the hunt).

Since then, the trend to an online call-out culture has continued and even intensified, but something changed during 2015. Mainstream journalists and public intellectuals finally began to express their unease.

The article is here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Here Are the Feels That Make Internet Things Go Viral

By Drake Baer
The Science of Us
Originally posted May 25, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Across the two languages, the researchers found, the stories that were most widely shared were high in “dominance,” or the feeling of being in control. Posts that make you feel happy or inspired are high in dominance, the research says, while stories that make you feel sad are disempowering. (This is also why “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity” is perhaps the finest BuzzFeed post of all, and like all quality vintages, it only gets better with age).

While dominance led to sharing in this data set, arousal (the feeling of being upset or excited, as indicated by giving angry affective feedback) predicted commenting. So if a story makes you really upset — as perhaps may be exploited by a presidential candidate or two — you’ll be more likely to comment, providing further explanation for why internet comments tend toward viciousness.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Hive consciousness

By Peter Watts
Originally published May 27, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

What are the implications of a technology that seems to be converging on the sharing of consciousness?

It would be a lot easier to answer that question if anyone knew what consciousness is. There’s no shortage of theories. The neuroscientist Giulio Tononi at the University of Wisconsin-Madison claims that consciousness reflects the integration of distributed brain functions. A model developed by Ezequiel Morsella, of San Francisco State University, describes it as a mediator between conflicting motor commands. The panpsychics regard it as a basic property of matter – like charge, or mass – and believe that our brains don’t generate the stuff so much as filter it from the ether like some kind of organic spirit-catchers. Neuroscience superstar V S Ramachandran (University of California in San Diego) blames everything on mirror neurons; Princeton’s Michael Graziano – right here in Aeon – describes it as an experiential map.

I think they’re all running a game on us. Their models – right or wrong – describe computation, not awareness. There’s no great mystery to intelligence; it’s easy to see how natural selection would promote flexible problem-solving, the triage of sensory input, the high-grading of relevant data (aka attention).

But why would any of that be self-aware?

If physics is right – if everything ultimately comes down to matter, energy and numbers – then any sufficiently accurate copy of a thing will manifest the characteristics of that thing. Sapience should therefore emerge from any physical structure that replicates the relevant properties of the brain.

The article is here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Threats to Academic Freedom

Francesca Minerva
Bioethics, (2014): 28(4); 157–162

Here is an excerpt:

In the first few days following online publication, we were deluged with an average of 30 death threats and hate emails a day. Many blogs and online newspapers reported the news and thousands of Twitter, Facebook and Google+ users shared the links and commented on the articles.

The discussion, largely in public rather than in academic journals, did not focus exclusively on the arguments of the paper but also on the authors. Perhaps attesting to an underlying current of sexism, the personal attacks were largely directed at me: I am a young woman and young women are supposed to have babies, not to argue in favour of after-birth abortion. This disparity got to the point that some newspapers even neglected to mention that the paper was co-authored, indicating me as the only author.

The different treatment of Singer’s and Tooley’s work on the same topic on the one hand,
and our paper on the other shows how the Web has changed the way academic ideas circulate. It is useful to highlight at least three aspects of this change:

1) The Internet has significantly speeded up the dissemination of academic ideas to the general public. Up to twenty years ago, access to academic work was almost exclusively through academic books and hard copy academic journals. Nowadays, many academic  journals maintain an online version which is easily and quickly accessible. Journalists can read academic papers and write a piece for an online newspaper, which may be shared by millions of users on other websites, or Blogs, and social network sites.

The entire paper is here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Future of Morality, at Every Internet User's Fingertips

By Tim Hwang
The Atlantic
Originally posted August 5, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

The choice not to link is therefore a personal moral act: It invokes an individual responsibility around making content accessible to others online. The economics of advertising are such that linking provides a frictionless channel for an audience’s attention (read: money) to reach content. The web of information stitched together by an individual as they browse and publish across the Internet is also implicitly a web of support for the content being linked to.

This shuffles up our traditional notions of what it means to link. Linking is tangled up with our concepts of proof and good argumentation online. One links to something else in order to provide a citation that backs up a point—that’s how I’m using links in this very article, for instance. The often-heard call of “citation needed” on Wikipedia echoes much of the same functionality.

Choosing not to link in that context represents a belief that the ethical duties around linking will sometimes outweigh the need to use linking to facilitate discourse and debate online. In some ways, it implies that the latter use is the lesser necessary as the ability to find information has grown enormously from the early days of the web.

The entire article is here.

Note: The article provides examples of why linking may be rewarding inappropriate, unethical, or immoral acts by internet sites and authors.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tim Cook says privacy is an issue of morality

By Chris Matyszczyk
Originally posted on June 3, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Cook, though, presented the issue in deeply political terms. He said: "We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. The American people demand it, the constitution demands it, morality demands it."

Morality is a feast that moves as it's eaten. It's admirable that Cook would appeal to our moral core, but how much is there left? And how many can identify it?

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How is the doctor-patient relationship changing? It’s going electronic.

By Suzanne Allard Levingston
The Washington Post
Originally posted April 27, 2015

Here are two excerpts:

Almost three-quarters of American adults use the Internet to search online for health information each year, according to the Pew Research Center. While patients are digging through new information, so are doctors. A “tsunami of knowledge” from hundreds of journals pours over doctors, says Jack Cochran, executive director of the Permanente Federation.

All this information changes the culture. “Doctors say they’re taught to know things that others don’t,” said Dave deBronkart, a cancer survivor and advocate for patient engagement. Today, thanks to online searches and communities, a patient may know about advances before a doctor does.


Not only should you read your electronic health record, you should check for errors. “Most people’s records contain mistakes,” deBronkart said. His 2009 blog about mistakes in his Google Health record led to a front-page story in the Boston Globe and a career as an advocate known as e-Patient Dave. (Google Health, a free service intended to help consumers pull together medical and wellness information, was discontinued in 2013 because it failed to generate broad interest.)

The entire article is here.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Do You Google Your Shrink?

By Ana Fels
The New York Times - Opinionator
Originally published April 4, 2015

Here are two excerpts:

Patients’ access to huge amounts of information about therapists’ lives can’t help but change both members of the therapeutic dyad. It can have, for instance, a chilling effect on the therapist’s work outside the office. As a psychiatrist who occasionally writes and speaks, I now have to think about the impact of these activities on prospective patients. If I write a feminist article, will I end up with only female patients?


The blurring of boundaries between the personal and professional can get quite creepy. A patient told me, in greater detail than I wished to know, about her Match.com date with a psychoanalyst with whom I’ve had professional dealings. It was an encounter that almost certainly would not have occurred in the pre-Internet-dating era, and it will be hard ever to think of him in quite the same way.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Ethics of Physicians’ Web Searches for Patients’ Information

Nicholas Genes and Jacob Appel
The Journal of Clinical Ethics
Volume 26, Number 1, Spring 2015

When physicians search the web for personal information about their patients, others have argued that this undermines  patients’ trust, and the physician-patient relationship in general. We add that this practice also places other relationships at risk, and could jeopardize a physician’s career.

Yet there are also reports of web searches that have unambiguously helped in the care of patients, suggesting circumstances in which a routine search of the web could be beneficial. We advance the notion that, just as nonverbal cues and unsolicited information can be useful in clinical decision making, so too can online information from patients. As electronic records grow more voluminous and span more types of data, searching these resources will become a clinical skill, to be used judiciously and with care—just as evaluating the literature is, today.

But to proscribe web searches of patients’ information altogether is as nonsensical as disregarding findings from physical exams—instead, what’s needed are guidelines for when to look and how to evaluate what’s uncovered, online.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Premera Blue Cross Breach May Have Exposed 11 Million Customers' Medical And Financial Data

By Kate Vinton
Originally published March 17, 2015

Medical and financial data belonging to as many as 11 million Premera Blue Cross customers may have been exposed in a breach discovered on the same day as the Anthem breach, the health insurance company announced Tuesday.

Premera discovered the breach on January 29, 2015. Working with both Mandiant and the FBI to investigate the attack, the company discovered that the initial attack occurred on May 5, 2014. Premera Blue Cross and Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska were both impacted, in addition to affiliate brands Vivacity and Connexion Insurance Solutions. Additionally, other Blue Cross Blue Shield customers in Washington and Alaska may have been affected by the breach.

The entire article is here.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Physician guidelines for Googling patients need revision

By Jennifer Abbasi
Penn State News
Originally posted February 2, 2015

With the Internet and social media becoming woven into the modern medical practice, Penn State College of Medicine researchers contend that professional medical societies must update or amend their Internet guidelines to address when it is ethical to "Google" a patient.

"As time goes on, Googling patients is going to become more and more common, especially with doctors who grew up with the Internet," says Maria J. Baker, associate professor of medicine.

Baker has dealt with the question first hand in her role as a genetic counselor and medical geneticist. In a case that inspired her recent paper in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, a patient consulted her regarding prophylactic mastectomies. The patient's family history of cancer could not be verified and then a pathology report revealed that a melanoma the patient listed had actually been a non-cancerous, shape-changing mole.

The entire article is here.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Do research ethics need updating for the digital age?

By Michael W. Ross, PhD, MD, MPH
The Monitor on Psychology
October 2014, Vol 45, No. 9
Print version: page 64

Over a week in early January 2012, the news feeds of more than 600,000 Facebook users changed subtly: Without users' knowledge, researchers manipulated the feeds' emotional content to examine how Facebook friends' emotions affected one another.

The study on "massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks" (PNAS, June 17, 2014) generated significant debate in both public and scientific spheres. Much of this debate centered on ethical aspects of the study. In an editorial, even the journal's editor-in-chief voiced concern that the "collection of the data by Facebook may have involved practices that were not fully consistent with the principles of obtaining fully informed consent and allowing participants to opt out" (Verma, 2014).

There has been extensive and incisive debate about the ethical and scientific issues arising from the study.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Internet, Suicide, & How Sites Like PostSecret Can Help

Studies show the Internet fails suicidal users. PostSecret shows how to help.
by Jennifer Golbeck, Ph.D.
Psychology Today Blog
Originally published October 4, 2014

People suffering from depression can feel isolated, lonely, and in need of help. As with so many other areas, the Internet is a natural place to turn for support. But, as with so many other things, the Internet is not always safe.

William Melchert-Dinkel, a former nurse who lives in Minnesota, was convicted last month for assisting the suicide of a British man online. Melchert-Dinkel spent his time visiting suicide-related internet forums where he posed as a suicidal female nurse. He would offer people step-by-step instructions on how to kill themselves (usually by hanging), and in ten cases, he entered into suicide pacts with other forum members. He believes five of those people went through with the suicides. In some cases, he may have watched people commit suicide over a webcam.

The entire blog post is here.