Reddit users to be sued over member’s suicide?

13 Apr 2012

Reports have been circulating this week that nine members of the content-sharing website Reddit allegedly urged a fellow user of the site to follow through with his plans to commit suicide and that a wrongful death lawsuit is to be brought against them, as well as Reddit being supoened.

It was in early March that user Black_Visions, an active member of the MensRights segment of the site, posted his apparent suicidal intentions in a post entitled ‘A lot of trolls tonight …’.

The story goes that some commentators on the site allegedly urged Black_Visions to follow through with his intentions.

Black_Visions was allegedly a 51-year-old man called Jerry from Tukwila in Washington who supposedly went on to kill himself after his Reddit posts and his interaction with other users.

Since then, a woman calling herself ‘Sandy’ used the Reddit platform yesterday to post under the name sisterofblackvisions. In the post, she wrote her family would be filing a wrongful death suit in Washington State against nine individuals.

“Our lawyer hired a private investigator and three of the individuals have been identified from those who urged Jerry to kill himself. Subpoenas will be issued to find the identiy (sic) of the other three, though it is possible that they were the same people. We don’t know yet. We were told by our lawyer not to give any other information out such as our full names or the people to be named in the lawsuit,” the user added.

However, another post on Reddit yesterday titled ‘MensRights suicide post was real; Reddit subpoenaed in wrongful death suit’ claimed the story was “starting to look fishy”.

“Most of the details given by sisterofblackvisions seem to match up with the news story and police ‘report’, except for some glaring errors, such as the date of the event and the name of the victim,” wrote user tad.

“I want to go on the record and state that, regardless of the veracity of the real-world event, what transpired in that thread one month ago was despicable, and whoever thought it would be a good idea to troll a guy who posted about his suicidal intentions are the lowest of the low. That doesn’t excuse my lack of scepticism and fact checking … I’m not going to be reporting drama here anymore. Thanks for those who are showing support and denouncing internet bullying,” he added.

And has since posted that the “whole thing appears to be a hoax”.

It reported that Tukwila Police Department spokesman Mike Murphy told Daily Intel that “the case detective and the victim’s family confirm that the victim in the Tukwila Doubletree suicide was not named Jerry. He did not have a sister, an ex-wife, or a daughter. We are not going to release his name until after the case is closed, probably in a few months.”

The Reddit ‘suicide’ incident, whether a tragic case or not, could potentially conjure up a lot of topical debate around cyber bullying, and how the social nature of the web can have devastating consequences.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic