Facebook using AI to prevent suicides

 

Facebook is trying to prevent suicides among users by using artificial intelligence to identify people who are at risk.

The social network has used some suicide prevention tools for more than a decade, but is beefing up measures after several recent suicides were streamed live on the site.

A new prevention feature will use artificial intelligence to identify posts including suicidal or harmful thoughts.

Such posts will be compared to others that warranted intervention and in some cases, passed on to Facebook’s community team for review
 

People watching a Facebook Live broadcast will be able to report videos for an escalated response from the company, which can contact emergency workers if it is believed someone is in imminent danger.

The person filming will also be shown a set of resources which will pop up on their phone screen, so they can contact a friend or a helpline.

The move comes after criticism the company is not doing enough to prevent users live-streaming suicide attempts, such as that by 14-year-old Florida girl Nakia Venant last month.

The teenager, who had been in and out of foster care for more than seven years, killed herself several hours after writing on Facebook: ‘I Don’t Wanna Live No More,’ adding three sad-faced emojis.

She was at least the third person to live-stream a suicide in February.

Afterwards, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said: ‘It’s hard to be running this company and feel like, okay, well, we didn’t do anything because no one reported it to us.

‘You want to go build the technology that enables the friends and people in the community to go reach out and help in examples like that.’

Facebook says that, thanks to the personal connections people have on the site, it is in a ‘unique position’ to help connect those in distress with people who can support them.

It recently gave users the ability to connect with partners such as Crisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, over Messenger.

Worldwide, there is a suicide attempt every 40 seconds, according to the World Health Organization, while among one of Facebook’s key demographics, those aged 15-29 years old, suicide is the second leading cause of death.