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Facebook to Use Artificial Intelligence to Prevent Suicides

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On Wednesday, Facebook announced it would use artificial intelligence to identify Facebook users at risk of dying by suicide in an effort to prevent suicide deaths. The news comes after multiple people livestreamed their deaths on the platform.

To help users at risk of suicide, Facebook created artificial intelligence (AI) that can identify posts featuring self-harm or suicidal thoughts. According to BuzzFeed News, the AI scans the post and its comments, compares it with flagged posts that required attention, and, if uncertain, passes the post along to Facebook’s community team for review. Those whose posts are flagged will then be contacted by Facebook, and shown a screen of support and mental health resources.

“The AI is actually more accurate than the reports that we get from people that are flagged as suicide and self injury,” Facebook Product Manager Vanessa Callison-Burchold told BuzzFeed News. “The people who have posted that content [that AI reports] are more likely to be sent resources of support versus people reporting to us.”

Facebook’s latest suicide prevention tools were created with help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Mental Health Association of New York City (MHA-NYC). Facebook will also be partnering with suicide prevention organizations to offer chat-based suicide hotlines through Facebook messenger and suicide prevention resources to Facebook Live users.

“It’s important that community members, whether they’re online or offline, don’t feel that they are helpless bystanders when dangerous behavior is occurring,” John Draper, Ph.D., Director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, said in a press release.

This is not the first time Facebook has taken steps to prevent self-harm. In October, Instagram, whose parent company is Facebook, released a suicide and self-harm reporting tool. Instagram’s tool was modeled after Facebook’s reporting system, which was released in April 2016.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Image credit: Kaboompics/Karolina 

Originally published: March 1, 2017
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