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Facebook To Use AI To Spot Suicidal Users

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Facebook, the social network used by billions, unveiled a new plan to help prevent suicides.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world use Facebook daily, and the company has pioneered internet access in remote areas to reach more people globally. But as access to the network has grown, the engineers, researchers and managers at the social media giant have also tracked the rise in a troubling pattern.

A suicidal Facebook user will often use the platform before taking their own life, either to leave a message, or, like a growing segment of suicides, live stream their deaths.

A news release by Facebook says that every 40 seconds, a person takes their own life. It adds that suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged 15-29.

To combat the trend, Facebook is creating new tools to allow concerned users to report troubling behavior, send help to people in need and reach out faster. Facebook is also working to provide real-time suicide help to users currently engaged in live streams people have flagged, reports the BBC.

Additionally, the company has begun streamlining suicide reporting, using artificial intelligence, reports The Verge.

The platform's recent moves to help Facebook Live users comes shortly after the live-streamed death of a 14-year-old Miami girl in January. But the platform said the work began on these tools well before that incident.

The tools give Facebook Live users new menus with more options, including the ability to declare they are concerned, display advice to the viewer and streamer, and get help for at-risk users while the broadcast is occurring, rather than after the fact.

Facebook is working with organizations, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Crisis Text Line, to integrate systems so the suicidal person can directly chat via Messenger with someone who can offer support.

"Some might say we should cut off the stream of the video the moment there is a hint of someone talking about the suicide," said the project's lead researcher, Jennifer Guadagno in a statement. "But what the experts emphasized was that cutting off the stream too early would remove the opportunity for people to reach out and offer support."

"So this opens up the ability for friends and family to reach out to a person in distress at the time they may really need it the most," she added.

Facebook plans to release its new system as soon as possible, rolling out the tools nationwide.

Sources: BBC, The Verge,Facebook / Photo credit: Facebook

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