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Facebook’s ‘Suicide Detecting’ Robots Are Here to Save Lives

A recently launched AI created by Facebook will quickly detect users at risk of suicide.

Kevin Homby Kevin Hom
Photo:  Chris Jackson / Getty Images

Recently, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a new AI which he hopes will save many lives. Facebook will now utilize an algorithm which will allow robots to identify suicidal thoughts in posts, videos, and live streams through pattern recognition. The AI is able to detect comments such as “Are you ok?” and “Can I help?” to flag reported posts, videos, and live streams. The AI also senses which points received increased levels of comments, allowing the Community Operations team working 24/7 to work quickly and notify first responders if necessary. Posts that are flagged for suicidal thoughts or behavior are expedited above other reasons posts might be flagged, such as for nudity or inappropriateness.

Currently, the program is only available in the U.S., but it will soon expand worldwide excluding the EU. According to Zuckerberg, in the future, the “AI will be able to understand more of the subtle nuances of language, and will be able to identify different issues beyond suicide as well, including quickly spotting more kinds of bullying and hate.”

This announcement by Facebook, whether you agree on the usage of AI in social media, is a huge positive PR move. Many in the comments section applaud the move, while some are skeptical about the functionality and how the initiative was announced publicly as opposed to being implemented subtly. Announcing the AI publicly may “tip-off” individuals from posting on Facebook. Additionally, the AI is unable to take down hateful pages or posts that are at the root of many suicides.

This process, starting with friends flagging the video, followed by AI bots searching the video, and a human sending first responders, is very time-consuming, but a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, it will take more than a social media website to prevent suicides.