Facebook is Using A.I. to Prevent Suicide

Could a status help save a life?

Flickr / Sarah.Marshall

Facebook announced a new initiative Monday to help users who are expressing thoughts of suicide, using “pattern recognition” artificial intelligence.

The company says it will be using AI technology to detect patterns in posts or live videos where the poster could be expressing thoughts of suicide. According to Facebook’s statement, titled “Getting Our Community Help in Real Time,” the quick detection will help authorities respond to reports faster.

Facebook says its plans will help with “improving how we identify appropriate first responders” and “dedicating more reviewers from our Community Operations team to review reports of suicide or self harm.”

The “pattern recognition” is aimed to help put the most concerning reports on an accelerated path to get the person of concern help, much like a triage system.

In a testimonial video, Facebook demonstrated how an Upstate New York police department used a status on the social network to get to a suicidal young woman before tragedy struck.

“We’ve found these accelerated reports — that we have signaled require immediate attention — are escalated to local authorities twice as quickly as other reports.”

Facebook says it will continue to “invest in pattern recognition technology” like facial ID to help with incidents like suicide prevention. Though, exactly where and what type of AI comes into play is unclear.

“We are starting to roll out artificial intelligence outside the US to help identify when someone might be expressing thoughts of suicide, including on Facebook Live. This will eventually be available worldwide, except the EU,” the company says.

The technology will help identify posts and live streams that may contain thoughts of suicide. We continue to work on this technology to increase accuracy and avoid false positives before our team reviews.

“We use signals like the text used in the post and comments (for example, comments like ‘Are you ok?’ and ‘Can I help?’ can be strong indicators),” the company’s statement says. “In some instances, we have found that the technology has identified videos that may have gone unreported.”

Facebook previously reporting features for both Facebook Live video broadcasters and those who are watching videos, if something seems wrong.

Here's how Facebook suggests viewers of Facebook Live videos can "support" a friend who needs it.

And here's how Facebook suggests to a Facebook Live broadcaster how to get help if someone reports it.

Facebook Live Video was launched nearly two years ago for mobile users before going wide across the platform. A Facebook Live Map was launched a few months later, which remains up to this day. It’s here:

A.I. can now look two seconds into the future. Check out this video to find out how.

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