- Facebook is using pattern recognition technology to identify content that could be indicative of a potential suicide.
- It will look for comments such as “Are you OK?” and “Can I help?”.
- The software is being rolled out globally, with the exception of the EU.
Facebook announced that it is rolling out artificial intelligence technology to help it detect posts, videos, and Facebook live streams that contain suicidal thoughts.
The “proactive detection” technology is being deployed globally after a trial on text-based posts in the US, which was announced in March. However, there is one rather large exception: the European Union, where data privacy laws make it tricky.
“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,” said Guy Rosen, Facebook’s VP of product management, in a blog post. “This will eventually be available worldwide, except the EU.”
“This approach uses pattern recognition technology to help identify posts and live streams as likely to be expressing 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). In some instances, we have found that the technology has identified videos that may have gone unreported.”
The social media giant already allows users to report friends that they think might be at risk but the use of AI should help the company to spot potential suicides earlier.
Facebook said it is also improving how it identifies and contacts the appropriate first responders (police, fire, ambulance, etc) when it identifies someone at risk.
Within the so-called “community operations” team – an army of people that review reports about content on Facebook – there is a dedicated group that focus on suicide and self harm. Facebook said it is using AI to prioritise the order that posts, videos, and live streams get reviewed in a bid to get first responders to the people that need them most.
Facebook may also contact users at risk (and their friends) via Facebook Messenger, sending them links to relevant pages on websites such as the National Suicide Prevention Line and the Crisis Text Line.
Mark Zuckerberg, cofounder and CEO of Facebook, announced on his Facebook page on Monday that the technology should help Facebook to save lives. He wrote:
“Here’s a good use of AI: helping prevent suicide.
“Starting today we’re upgrading our AI tools to identify when someone is expressing thoughts about suicide on Facebook so we can help get them the support they need quickly. In the last month alone, these AI tools have helped us connect with first responders quickly more than 100 times.
“With all the fear about how AI may be harmful in the future, it’s good to remind ourselves how AI is actually helping save people’s lives today.
“There’s a lot more we can do to improve this further. Today, these AI tools mostly use pattern recognition to identify signals — like comments asking if someone is ok — and then quickly report them to our teams working 24/7 around the world to get people help within minutes. In the future, AI will be able to understand more of the subtle nuances of language, and will be able to identify different issues beyond suicide as well, including quickly spotting more kinds of bullying and hate.
“Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for young people, and this is a new approach to prevention. We’re going to keep working closely with our partners at Save.org, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ‘1-800-273-TALK (8255)’,ForefrontSuicide Prevent, and with first responders to keep improving. If we can use AI to help people be there for their family and friends, that’s an important and positive step forward.”