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Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly

Authors

Ellen Luu

Abstract

The proliferation of online social networking websites such as MySpace, Facebook, and message boards has introduced a new threat in the form of suicidepromoting cyber-speech. In countries such as the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom, individuals have used these social networks to access advertisements for suicide partners, feedback on self-murder plans, and guides on how to commit suicide. In light of claims that this cyber-speech serves the legitimate purpose of providing an open forum for discussion on such topics, is such speech protected under the First Amendment?

While the Supreme Court has upheld the prohibition of assisted suicide, it has not addressed cyber-speech that promotes or encourages suicide. This Note proposes that cyber-speech that promotes or encourages suicide does not fall squarely within the traditional categories of unprotected speech. However, a statute that prohibits such speech may survive First Amendment scrutiny under very specific conditions. Legislation should be drafted to prohibit intentionally and knowingly providing information and methods for committing suicide, through the use of interstate commerce, to a specific recipient, who has implicitly or explicitly indicated a desire for such information, with the intent and knowledge that the recipient uses that information to commit suicide.

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