After successful testing in the U.S., Facebook will expand its pattern recognition software to other countries. The software is designed with the goal of detecting users with suicidal intent. Facebook has been testing the software in the U.S. since March, when the company began scrutinizing select Facebook posts and comments for phrases that could be signs of suicidal thoughts.
Facebook’s team of workers is trained to handle such potential suicide reports. As soon as the software identifies a potential suicide, it alerts the team. The system also suggests resources to the user or to friends of the person such as a telephone help line. Facebook will also call local authorities to get involved.
Facebook’s vice president for product management Guy Rosen said the company will begin launching the software outside the United States following the tests which have been successful in the U.S. In the last month, Facebook has contacted more than 100 first responders about potentially fatal posts, other than those reported by someone’s family or friends.
“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,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post on the social network.
Facebook stated that it tries to have specialist employees available at all times to call authorities in local languages.
“Speed really matters. We have to get help to people in real time,” Rosen said.
Rosen has not yet named the countries where the company will launch the software; however, he mentioned that in due time, the software will be deployed worldwide with the exception of the European Union due to sensitivity issues.
Considering the fact that Facebook has access to data of 2.1 billion users which it uses for targeted advertising, overall, the company has not been known to systematically scan conversations for patterns of harmful behavior. Rosen did not comment if it’s going to consider pattern recognition software in other areas, such as non-sex crimes.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The line is open 24/7 and there is also an online chat option.