Facebook has announced that it is expanding its existing suicide prevention efforts by using an artificial intelligence (AI)-based proactive detection tool for scanning posts on the social media platform for possible patterns of suicidal thoughts by individuals. The goal of this approach is to proactively help people believed to be at risk of committing suicide by sending helpful mental health resources to them in real time or seeking aid from local first responders. Over the long term, Facebook aims to identify suicidal posts ahead of user reports. The proactive detection system is now rolling out to Facebook's ecosystem and Facebook Live outside the United States, though no specific countries have been mentioned. Eventually, Facebook is planning to release its tools in all parts of the world save for the European Union, presumably due to legal issues.
The method takes advantage of pattern recognition to detect suicidal thoughts in Facebook posts and streamed videos. The technology is a work in progress as the social media giant seeks to make sure the AI system is accurate in recognizing suicidal patterns in posts before Facebook's team of reviewers begins to analyze them. The AI tool will also use specific texts in posts and comments as signals that will indicate someone is in distress and in need of immediate response. While the pattern recognition approach uses AI to speed up the detection process, Facebook also maintains a Community Operations team that consists of thousands of reviewers from across the globe who work to assess reports on various content on the social networking site. The role of AI in this approach is to help identify posts and live streams the specialists should review first in order to determine the appropriate first responders who will provide the necessary assistance and proper resources to people at risk of committing suicide.
Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of product management, said in a blog post published on Monday that the company has collaborated with first responders in October to develop more than 100 wellness checks using the data gathered through Facebook's proactive detection tool on top of the reports collected from the Facebook community. This work builds on Facebook's ongoing effort to help users reach out to friends who express thoughts of suicide or report a suicidal post directly to the company. Facebook's suicide prevention tool was also added to its Facebook Live and Messenger services earlier this year.