Facebook Sees AI As A Tool To Help Prevent Suicides

Facebook is adding AI to existing efforts to prevent suicide. New “proactive detection” artificial intelligence technology can scan posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts.

The system will direct mental-health resources to at-risk users and their closest friends, and, when deemed appropriate, alert local first-responders.

Among a community of roughly 2 billion members, AI can reduce the time it takes to help those in distress, according to Guy Rosen, VP of product management at Facebook.

“When someone is expressing thoughts of suicide, it’s important to get them help as quickly as possible,” Rosen notes in a new blog post.

Regarding the frequency of such efforts, he said Facebook worked with first responders on roughly 100 “wellness checks,” over the past month.

Those checks were based on reports Facebook received via its proactive detection efforts. They were in addition to reports it received from users across its community.

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AI essentially uses pattern recognition to detect posts or live videos where someone might be expressing thoughts of suicide.

Facebook also uses pattern recognition to help accelerate the most concerning reports. These accelerated reports -- which require immediate attention -- are “escalated” to local authorities twice as quickly as other reports.

The company uses signals like the text used in a post and comments (for example, comments like “Are you ok?” and “Can I help?” can be strong indicators).

Facebook is also dedicating more reviewers from its community operations team to review reports of suicide or self harm, according to Rosen.

Its community operations team currently includes thousands of people around the world who review reports about content on Facebook. The team includes a dedicated group of specialists who have specific training in suicide and self harm.

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