Facebook on Suicide Watch

Lucas    December 1, 2017


Data collection and artificial intelligence can be very disconcerting to social media users. Regardless of how consumers feel about the common availability of their personal information, it is often unavoidable when one chooses to participate in online activity. There are many well-know negative impacts of the publication of personal information; however, there is an almost endless list of positives available to consumers when their information is made available to technology.

Google’s ability to reroute drivers proactively in the case of an upcoming incident helps drivers get from A to B as quickly as possible. how does it work? It relies on Google’s ability to monitor the location, speed, and direction of travel of almost all drivers, anywhere in North America, by tracking drivers’ cell phones in a passive, undetectable manor. This is a great example of how personal information being made public, and it’s combination with powerful artificial intelligence software networks, can provide major benefits to those who can tolerate the risk.

Beyond improving our day-to-day life, artificial intelligence (AI), data collection, and social media monitoring is now being given a very powerful responsibility: to save lives and prevent deaths.

Perhaps the earliest example of AI being used in any great scope was IBM’s Watson software. Watson was initially used to answer questions, but in 2013 was employed in the health care field to detect disease, including lung cancer, which it was able to predict with much greater accuracy when compared to human doctors. (Steadman, 2013)

Now, Facebook has made the news recently for developing their own AI initiative that is intended to detect those who may be at risk for self-harm or suicide, and the software will intervene if necessary. (Greene, 2017) Depending on the severity of the issue, Facebook’s AI may simply notify the at-risk use of tools and resources to help them through a trying situation; if the situation seems to worsen, human intervention may follow. (Constine, 2017) Finally, if necessary, Facebook can alert local emergency services of a potential suicide, along with the person’s location. (Constine, 2017)

Of course, many concerns about privacy have been highlighted as a result of Facebook’s new initiative. Although it is clear that the intentions are positive, many people don’t like the idea that computers, and sometimes real people, are quietly monitoring and dissecting every bit of information they share online. Thus far, over 100 interventions have taken place as a result of this AI program. (Greene, 2017) Regardless of the privacy concerns, it’s clear that the program is a step in the right direction when it comes to mental health services.

Lessons for Others

The future of social media will focus on the accumulation of massive amounts of data, and the technology required to sort and create value out of that data. The unfathomable amount of data that is being produced every day is meaningless without structure and a purpose. Facebook’s AI, although still in testing, is successfully screening this data-pile and focusing on the small fraction that it feels has value. Whether this value will benefit organizations, governments, or the consumers who provide the data, there are limitless applications of artificial intelligence that can help leverage social medias in ways that humans, on their own, never could.

Organization: Facebook
Industry: Social Media
Name of Organization Contact: N/A

Authored by: Lucas R. Coady

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Constine, J. (Nov 27, 2017). Facebook rolls out AI to detect suicidal posts before they’re reported, TechCrunch. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2017/11/27/facebook-ai-suicide-prevention/

Greene, T. (Nov 28, 2017). Facebook teaches AI to seek out suicidal users, The Next Web. Retrieved from https://thenextweb.com/artificial-intelligence/2017/11/28/facebook-teaches-ai-to-seek-out-suicidal-users/

Steadman, I. (Feb 11, 2013) IBM’s Watson is better at diagnosing cancer than human doctors, Wired. Retrieved from http://www.wired.co.uk/article/ibm-watson-medical-doctor