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Is Urging Suicide Free Speech?

A developing case in Minnesota raises serious questions on what  free speech. According to Emily Gurnon at Pioneer Press,

“Former nurse William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, of Faribault has been charged with two felony counts of encouraging, advising or assisting another in committing suicide. After oral arguments Thursday morning, Rice County District Judge Thomas Neuville took the matter under advisement; he will issue a verdict within 20 days.”

The accused nurse here has confessed to encouraging two people to commit suicide-one in Canada and one in the United Kingdom; but his lawyer is arguing that his client's online advice is free speech.

“Using the screen names “cami,” “falcon_girl” and “Li dao,” Melchert-Dinkel posed as a young woman, a sympathetic emergency room nurse who had seen the results of botched suicides and recommended hanging as the most dependable method.”

What Dinkel said and did is deplorable and morbid, his profession adds to the sickness of his acts but can online cajoling and encouragement to commit suicide or to commit a crime be taken as a free speech issue and not as a criminal act?

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ judgement may explain what the court's feel when it comes to digital communications/images and proving actual harm.

Associated Press reports that,

“A federal appeals court has upheld the child pornography conviction of a New York man who superimposed the faces of teenage girls onto sexually explicit photographs of nude adults in his computer.”

The judges noted that the man's acts put the pictured girls psychological health in danger and also hurt their reputation. It was not proven that the man distributed the altered images, so it is interesting to note here that even though there is no proof of direct harm, the judges’ believed that since the girls were identifiable they were violated by the altered pictures.

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