Facebook uses AI to combat suicide

Trend of ‘live’ suicides on site prompts quick action

In the beginning of March, Facebook announced the use of artificial intelligence to combat suicide and the users who may stream their suicide on the social media site’s live video platform.

The company’s commitment to battle against suicide has risen because of the alarming trend in which users, such as 14-year-old Naika Venant who streamed her death by hanging, have posted their suicides onto the social media site since the video platform became available last year.

Facebook has made small and large changes to begin its campaign. One of the former changes has to do with making reporting a suicide easier by providing a page for users to post a link to the content, while the latter consists of using the AI to sift through users’ posts to determine any red flags that may warn for possible suicidal behavior.

Estela Ibarra, sophomore sociology major, said she supports Facebook for taking action since suicide is a devastating issue that continues to affect every demographic in each part of the globe.

“It is such a good idea (to use the AI) because seeing other people do that can be emotionally triggering to other people,” Ibarra said. “It can make people feel as though they failed to help whoever was involved, and they may ask, ‘How did I fail in not being a good friend, or how did I fail in being a good person?’”

Facebook has used similar technology to deter other trends including terrorist propaganda and recruitment running rampant across the site. This suicide trend comes at a time where the technology is still not perfected as Facebook leaders continually work on the speed of the program.

Jorge Mendieta, director of user services, speculated on what could be the cause of this live streaming suicide trend.

“It boils down to getting attention. When somebody gets to that mental state, they are asking for help, but they sometimes are unable to do so verbally,” Mendieta said.

Still, others focus on what they believe to be more important during the midst of this trend: Who is to be held responsible for the trend.

Dr. Linda Zhao, associate professor of criminal justice, said she believes Facebook should partially shoulder the burden of culpability since it occurs on their live platform.

“Technology is a double-edged sword. People can use it to do some pretty crazy things,” Zhao said. “Facebook should be held responsible for this because I could imagine Facebook can be used for many negative things including terrorism and pornography that should also be stopped.”

On the other hand, Mendieta stated, “It is everybody’s responsibility not just Facebook. That responsibility starts with that person’s family. If they do not see the signs, then what can you do about it?”

Facebook users, employees and concerned citizens will wait to see how artificial intelligence is able to handle the live stream suicide trend. Unfortunately, time is of the essence in the case of this trend as lives lost increase.

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