Facebook launches new tools to help prevent suicide

World Suicide Prevention Day: Social network links with Samaritans on safety features

Facebook will rely on its community of users to flag posts from friends or family which may be indicative of suicidal emotions or tendencies.  File photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Facebook will rely on its community of users to flag posts from friends or family which may be indicative of suicidal emotions or tendencies. File photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

 

Facebook has launched a series of suicide prevention tools ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day next weekend.

The social media giant has teamed up with support service Samaritans to develop a range of supports for people who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.

As part of the new process, Facebook will rely on its community of users to flag posts from friends or family which may be indicative of suicidal emotions or tendencies.

Posts of concern are then prioritised by Facebook moderators who can contact the relevant individual with help options and resources developed in association with Samaritans.

The tools also prompt an option of reaching out to a friend or contacting a Samaritans volunteer, and offer tips and advice on how to work through difficult emotions.

Troubling content

The person who tags the troubling content will be encouraged to call or message their distressed friend, or to reach out to others who might be able to provide adequate support.

“People use Facebook to connect with friends and family, and that’s why we’re evolving the support, resources and advice available to people who are in distress and their concerned friends and family members,” said Facebook’s European safety policy manager, Julie de Bailliencourt.

Samaritans previously encountered controversy under similar circumstances when its Radar app for Twitter had to be taken down over privacy concerns.

The app used algorithms to follow users’ tweets and could broadcast an alert to their followers if a potentially suicidal message was posted.

Samaritans executive director Deirdre Toner moved to distance Facebook’s new features from the Radar experience, saying there is no tracking software involved and no access to users’ accounts.

“It’s not Radar, this product is very different. There are no posts or monitoring, and there is no automated process when it comes to making a judgment about content that has been flagged as being potentially of concern,” she said.

“This tool offers an opportunity for friends and Facebook to reach out to people who may be struggling and signpost them towards sources of support that they may not have otherwise considered, such as Samaritans,” she added.

Samaritans freephone line: 116 123