Facebook adds more suicide prevention tools

The new tools integrate support systems for people contemplating suicide into Facebook Live and Messenger and streamline the reporting process.

Joan E. Solsman
Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Facebook advanced suicide prevention tools for its network Tuesday.


Facebook is adding more tools to help prevent suicide.

The social network is integrating help into Facebook Live and Messenger and using artificial intelligence to streamline reporting of suicidal red flags, according to a company blog post Wednesday.

The moves build on steps Facebook has already taken to try to help people contemplating suicide. In 2011, the company launched a service that allowed users to chat live with a suicide prevention specialist. It expanded suicide prevention support again in 2015.

Noting that suicide accounts for one death every 40 seconds worldwide, the company cited expert advice that one of the best ways to prevent suicide is to get support from familiar people. "Facebook is in a unique position -- through friendships on the site -- to help connect a person in distress with people who can support them," the company said.

To support someone on Facebook Live video, viewers have the option to reach out to the person directly and report the video to the company. It will also provide resources to the person reporting the live video to help them assist the friend. The person sharing a live video will see a set of resources on their screen, offering options like reach out to a friend, contact a help line or see tips.

The company said it has added the ability for people to connect with crisis support partners over Messenger, such Crisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This test will expand over the next several months.

Facebook also aims to make reporting quicker and more accurate, using artificial intelligence to test and streamline a reporting process that recognizes patterns. It's also testing pattern recognition to identify posts as very likely to include thoughts of suicide. The test starts in the US.

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