Facebook's New AI Can Identify Suicidal Thoughts In Posts And Videos

Pat Wise
November 28, 2017

The company said in May that it would hire 3,000 additional workers to its 4,500-employee "community operations" team, which reviews posts and other content reported for violent or otherwise troubling content.

"We've found these accelerated reports- that we have signaled require immediate attention-are escalated to local authorities twice as quickly as other reports", Guy Rosen, vice president of product management at Facebook, said in a statement. The new feature is meant to detect such posts before anyone reports them. What's more, the software is created to even take comments on a problematic post into account, with Facebook noting that comments like "Are you ok?" can be strong indicators that something is wrong.

Facebook announced on Monday that, following successful tests in the USA, it will roll out its pattern recognition software created to scan for posts with suicidal intent to other countries, except in the EU. By using pattern recognition, the new AI can identify when someone says something that might suggest they're considering self-harm.

Facebook said that it will use pattern recognition to scan all posts and comments for certain phrases to identify whether someone needs help. Eliminating this step not only means the company can identify cases that may have previously fallen through the cracks, but that they can reach people who need help much faster than before.

"I feel like we have a responsibility to push forward, through whatever problems we'll encounter along the way, so we can help people as quickly as possible", Zuckerberg wrote in comments.

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Facebook has a team of staffers trained in suicide prevention, which reviews flagged content.

Since the new tools were first tested in the U.S. earlier this year, Facebook has carried out 100 "wellness checks" on people it was concerned about.

Rosen said the AI enhancements are being first rolled out outside the United States and will eventually be available worldwide, with the exception of the European Union. It's also dedicating more moderators to suicide prevention, training them to deal with the cases 24/7, and now has 80 local partners like Save.org, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and Forefront from which to provide resources to at-risk users and their networks.

'Facebook is a place where friends and family are already connected and we are able to help connect a person in distress with people who can support them.

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