Why Online Content Needs to Be Filtered


Online content should be censored in order to protect at-risk groups from hurting themselves or others.

Content Warning: this article discusses self-harm and suicide. Reader discretion is advised.

The explosion of social media in the Digital Age has led to more information being shared than ever before. The internet can be a great place for people to share their opinions, feelings, and lifestyles. But when that content puts people at risk, the Internet can become a dangerous place, especially for young children or those who struggle with their mental health and addiction. 

Mental health struggles have been pushed into the limelight recently, making mental health issues more normalized for those who struggle with them. However, with the normalization of mental health issues also comes the harmful romanticization of them. On teenage-dominated social media platforms such as TikTok, Tumblr, and Twitter, mental health content has become the new version of relatable content. Specifically, those who struggle with unhealthy and addictive coping methods have become particularly vocal. The tag #sh has over 2.2 billion videos of people sharing their experiences with self-harm or talking about methods of harm reduction. Now, an increasingly prevalent style of content is of people making jokes about their scars and hiding behind the excuse of using humor as a coping mechanism. This exposes both people who are already struggling and people who are trying to curb an addiction to triggering content that could put their safety at risk. Despite TikTok’s Safety Guidelines, dangerous content is increasingly prevalent and easily available to anyone who looks for it. 

But popular social media sites aren’t the only problem. In December 2021, the New York Times wrote an article discussing multiple suicides linked to a forum website where people could talk about their problems, share methods of killing themselves, and encourage others to commit. The forum was run by two people under the names Marquis and Serge. The article mentions that over 500 people wrote “goodbye threads” in which they stated their plan for suicide. These were among the most popular posts, garnering several likes and “supportive” comments. The majority of site users died within days or weeks from suicide. This site was linked to multiple countries, such as Australia and Germany, but it seems that the US in particular has been reluctant to enact strong online regulations on such content. The assistance of suicide is widely considered illegal, but it is hard to enforce and prove due to its secretive nature. If online content regulations are not put in place, more people will become exposed to websites like this one. Countries and states need laws that filter and delete dangerous websites and content, or else the youth suicide rate will continue to increase drastically as it has for the past twelve years.

Some particularly patriotic Americans may cite the First Amendment, or the freedom of speech, as an excuse for Internet freedom and deregulation. People know that they are at risk of seeing triggering content when they open social media, so it’s not up to the content creator to put warnings or even remove the post altogether. Of course, this stands true for content on political and social issues, as those rarely put someone’s life in danger. However, for dangerous and life-threatening content, there is no excuse to leave it unmonitored. In real life, people don’t abruptly show others graphic content out of basic human decency. It should be the same on the Internet. Even movies and TV shows have content warnings and ratings for this reason. Age groups that are sensitive to swearing or violence, such as children, are less likely to watch an R rated movie because of the age limit that movie theaters impose and the ratings and warnings associated with it.

 Online content, especially widely accessible content on platforms such as TikTok, Tumblr, and Reddit, needs to be filtered, tagged, and in certain cases, deleted if it poses a risk to consumers’ safety. Teens and young adults deserve to have undisturbed access to the Internet without content that could negatively impact their well-being.