Is This Where We Are?

Wednesday night, Abraham Biggs, a 19-year-old Florida resident, overdosed on a toxic combination of benzodiazepine, a depressant used to treat insomnia, and opiates, killing himself. He did so in front of a live Web audience—some of whom, apparently, were “encouraging him” to go forward with the suicide.

“People were egging him on and saying things like ‘go ahead and do it, faggot,’ Wendy Crane, an investigator at the Broward County Medical Examiner’s office, told ABC News.

This isn’t the first time that suicides have been committed on webcam, apparently with encouragement from live viewers—a British man hanged himself last year after allegedly being goaded to do so by fellow users on Paltalk, another live video site. Still, absent from some of today’s descriptions of Biggs’s death-casting is a sense of disgust about this particularly insidious strain of voyeurism. NewTeeVee, an online-video industry publication, called Biggs’s suicide “a striking display of the power of live video.”

I’d call it something else.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.