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Dealing with death/suicide threats
How to handle posts that contain death or suicide threats.

 10:21 am on Jan 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

A member of my forum recently got some very bad news and posted it on my forum. He seems fine and just needed a place to vent but it brought to my attention the possibility of someone posting suicide or worse death threats in the future.

Anybody else run into a similar situation? How have you handled it? Do you have a moderator policy on how it should be handled?



 1:18 pm on Jan 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Depends on the content, the member, the community...

Never had death threats beyond "Kill Barney!" (the purple dinosaur), but we have had some folks with serious health/financial situations that popped up on moderated forums. If totally inappropriate those posts were removed.

I'd be more concerned with unexpected libel since few actually post death threats in public.

If someone is acting suicidal then make a report to local authorities (if known) so the person can get help. And if a true (or you believe it to be true) death threat is made DEFINITELY report it to local authorites (YOURS) so they can investigate it, or contact those who should.


 5:47 pm on Jan 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

If totally inappropriate those posts were removed.

That is something I'm concerned about though because I don't want to be the trigger so speak. Some people get highly involved with a forum, in my case since it's pretty local enough they have had meet and greets. People actually know each other to some degree.


 6:05 pm on Jan 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's difficult to give a definitive answer, as indicated by tangor, it depends upon what your forum is about.

Having a good set of forum rules makes it easier to manage situations that develop, however, you'll never cover everything. The best way to build a set of rules to abide by is to make them as broad as possible. eg, "We don't discuss widgets." is better than, "We don't discuss green widgets." Otherwise, the danger is you end up having to list all the widgets you don't cover.


 3:17 am on Jan 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

this was discussed here a couple of years ago - you might want to read through that one:
Suicide threat [webmasterworld.com]


 11:03 am on Jan 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'll be a bit more specific:

Knowledge, that is you are aware of either a suicide or criminal act, AND YOU FAIL TO ACT has consequences in most countries, particularly the USA and UK and CA. Do not be lightweight or wuss. Report it to local authorities (document it).

Meanwhile (Forums) PM the critter to feel it out. Suggest they seek help. And let them know you are concerned and have alerted the authorities. CYA. (Stands for Cover Your A$$), then get out of the way.

And if you value your forum, and you moderate, and KEEP IT ON TOPIC, a suicide/death threat is NOT ON TOPIC.



 2:08 pm on Jan 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

Remove any such content from public view, as members will not always post in a helpful manner.

These are often trolls trying to get a rise from other members, and having their stuff removed will curb the behavior.

There is always the possibility that the threat is real. For that reason, I would suggest responding with a brief, sympathetic note stating that the post had to be removed to comply with the TOS but encouraging the individual to seek help from friends, family, a professional counselor, or a hotline set up for that purpose.

Since posters are usually anonymous, contacting authorities is usually not an option. If you think you have an identifiable and credible threat, check with an attorney in your jurisdiction to determine the best way to deal with it.

Quick removal is key, IMO. Just as there are idiots who will yell "Jump!" if they see someone on the ledge of a tall building, unsympathetic posters will often ridicule or otherwise aggravate the original poster. I like to get the post out of view ASAP, lest a troll be encouraged or a person with a real problem gets pushed farther off-center.


 7:03 pm on Feb 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

wouldnt know what to do :|

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