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Facebook using AI to help prevent suicides

Posted: 3 March 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

Facebook is using its social network platform to help spot and intercept account holders who may be contemplating suicide.

The firm, which has1.8 billion users, has built and is currently testing an algorithm which uses AI (machine learning and natural language processing) that can read and identify a status update from someone who may be suffering from mental health related issues.

Statistically, there is a death by suicide in the world every 40 seconds, with suicide being the second leading cause of death for 15-29 year old.

“Facebook is in a unique position — through friendships on the site — to help connect a person in distress with people who can support them,” wrote a spokesperson. “It’s part of our ongoing effort to help build a safe community on and off Facebook.”

Updates

Facebook has offered suicide prevention tools on its platform for more than a decade by providing the ability for concerned friends to send alerts via the ‘Report’ option found in the options second of every post.

Each alert is reviewed by the social media firm, with the people involved then offered support from a number of organizations in 70 different countries. Partnerships include; Save.org, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Forefront and Crisis Text Line, as well as input from people who have personal experience thinking about or attempting suicide.

In addition to building an AI platform, Facebook – with the help of mental health experts – has also included a number of new preventative tools to help its users address their concerns of someone else, or to help themselves.

These include the ability for people to report any concerns during live broadcasts on its video streaming service Facebook Live, which wasn’t previously available. The person sharing the live video will also see a set of resources on their screen encouraging them to reach out to a friend, contact a help line or see tips. Facebook however does encourage all concerned users to contact their local emergency services right away. Information on how to support yourself or friends around mental health can also be found via their Help Center

Partnerships

Facebook has also teamed up with  a number of leading organization to allow people to communicate using its Messenger application.

Participating organizations include Crisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The service is currently being trialed in the US with a view for a wider rollout in the future. Details of which have not been discussed.

“We are starting this limited test in the US and will continue working closely with suicide prevention experts to understand other ways we can use technology to help provide support,” Facebook added.

“Suicide prevention is one way we’re working to build a safer community on Facebook. With the help of our partners and people’s friends and family members on Facebook, we’re hopeful we can support more people over time.”

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