Facebook has been the focal point of a multitude of controversies as of late. One of the more alarming ones among these is reports of people committing suicide on its populous platform. The company has rolled out a few options to curb such incidents. However, none of them have been able as effective as Facebook hoped for. As the next step, the social network is going all in.
With a new technology called “proactive detection”, Facebook’s artificially intelligent algorithms will now scour through each and every post to look for patterns of suicidal conditions. The feature is compatible with all types of posts including images. The company has previously added a similar framework for live streams. However, that approach wasn’t particularly improving the situations since users were giving up their lives during those sessions. Now, Facebook believes it will able to help people out before it’s too late.
Once the algorithm detects a post matching its requirements, it will send mental health resources to the person or even their friends. Moreover, depending on the circumstances, it can also contact local first responders. Flagged posts will be shared with a team of human moderators as well allowing them to take a more appropriate action based on the context.
“This is about shaving off minutes at every single step of the process, especially in Facebook Live,” says VP of product management Guy Rosen. “Over the past month of testing, Facebook has initiated more than 100 “wellness checks” with first-responders visiting affected users. There have been cases where the first-responder has arrived and the person is still broadcasting.”
In addition to that, the new algorithm will have the ability to prioritize more dire user reports as well. These reports will be forwarded to moderators who will look for local language materials and emergency contact info. Facebook says it has added more representatives since the last time and has trained to handle cases 24/7. It has partnered with over 80 organizations including Save.org, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and Forefront.
Considering that the “proactive detection” technology is scanning all of your posts all the time, there’s a bit of a privacy concern too here. Because of that, the feature won’t be made available in the European Union where activities such as these are frowned upon. There’s also no way to opt out through a setting, for now at least. Therefore, other than trusting the algorithm to do its job properly, you currently have no option.