Sen. Blumenthal: Google, Bing Must Drop Suicide Site

Screengrab of Sen. Richard Blumenthal during tech hearing
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) (Image credit: C-SPAN)

In the wake of a report in The New York Times on a website that provides instrucctions and support for people contemplating suicide, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wants the major search engines to remove the site from their search results.

“We are in the midst of a mental health crisis, particularly among young people,” Blumenthal wrote in letters to Google and Microsoft’s Bing. “By providing instructions and social pressure, the site is helping to fuel this crisis and is directly culpable for the deaths of many young people.”

Blumenthal has been one of the big critics of Big Tech companies for how they moderate content on their site. He’s among the lawmakers threatening to remove or weaken social media sites’ exemption from civil liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act for most third-party content on their platforms, particularly if they don't use power to pre-empt dangerous content.

Also: House E&C Leaders Seek Meetings About Suicide Website

Blumenthal cited the Times story’s assertion that while both platforms had been asked to “steer people away from the website” — which is actually a step further than just not showing it among the results — they have declined to do so. The senator said the companies have not only the ability but the legal authority to do so given the “Good Samaritan” provision of Section 230, which allows companies to take actions to limit protected speech.

“Congress made clear its intent for companies like Google to act as Good Samaritan managers of their platforms, not to shield it from its obligations to protect vulnerable communities," the senator said.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.