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Facebook Unveils Real-Time Suicide Prevention Tools Via Facebook Live, Facebook Messenger

Update Date: Mar 07, 2017 07:10 AM EST

When Facebook launched their Facebook Live function, the company intended it for its user to live-stream and share real-time updates on the events happening in their lives. However, some have taken advantage of this Facebook feature to show themselves taking their own lives to the horror of their acquaintances.

In response to these disturbing events, Facebook recently unveiled real-time suicide prevention tools via their Facebook Live and Facebook Messenger features.

These real-time suicide prevention tools provided by Facebook were developed with the coordination with crisis support organizations like the Crisis Text Line, Save.org, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The goal of these tools is not only to prevent people from committing suicide but also connecting these mental distress people to appropriate crisis support groups.

The tools enable Facebook users to report people engaged or about to engage in self-harm. By reporting these suicidal people to Facebook, the company then provides appropriate resources to help both the suicidal person and the Facebook user who reported him or her. Through Facebook Messenger, users can immediately and directly contact mental health services for themselves or for the people they know.

As reported by TechCrunch, Facebook is also using artificial intelligence and pattern recognition software to identify posts by people who might engage in self-harm. If the post has been flagged down as suicidal, a team from Facebook will review the post and provide necessary resources and assistance to the possibly suicidal person.

However, these kinds of functions are still far off from being integrated on both Facebook Live and Facebook Messenger. There is also a problem of whether cutting off the live stream could cause more harm to the suicidal person as it cuts him or her off from possible assistance provided by Facebook and the person's acquaintances.

On the other hand, not cutting off the live stream can have other people egg on the suicidal person to finish their lives.

In an interview with USAToday, Dan Romer from the University of Pennsylvania and the research director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, Facebook would be facing problems when it comes to suicide prevention with Facebook Live as the real-time nature of the feature can be tough for authorities to hastily pinpoint and reach the suicidal or mentally distressed person.

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