Facebook Uses Artificial Intelligence To Update Suicide Prevention Tools

Two years after Facebook rolled out updated tools for suicide prevention, the social media network is revising those resources once again, this time to include artificial intelligence assistance and expanding the features to its other platforms Messenger and Facebook Live. 

Facebook announced Wednesday that it has updated its tools and resources in an effort to better help people who may be thinking of suicide and increasing the support it offers for those concerned about family and friends.

“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 says in a statement. “It’s part of our ongoing effort to help build a safe community on and off Facebook.”

Through the updates, Facebook will use artificial intelligence to help spot users with suicidal tendencies. The system will use pattern recognition in posts previously reported for suicide to identify posts as very likely to include thoughts of suicide.

Facebook’s Community Operations team will review these posts and, if appropriate, provide resources to the person who posted the content, even if someone on Facebook has not reported it yet.

The AI tool is currently being tested in a limited capacity with the assistance of suicide prevention experts, the company says.

Wednesday’s updates also build on Facebook’s current suicide prevention tools that allow users to report direct threats of suicide, first by contacting local emergency services, and then by telling Facebook about any troubling content.

Now, Facebook says, those tools will be integrated into Live and Messenger.

With regard to Live, Facebook says that people watching a live video will have the option to reach out to the person directly and to report the video to Facebook.


At that point, the person conducting the live video will see resources on their screen that allows them to reach out to a friend, contact a help line, or see tips.

On Messenger, Facebook says it has added the ability for people to connect with the network’s crisis support partners — including Crisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — over the messaging service.

Users will have the option to message with someone in real-time directly from the organization’s Page or through Facebook’s suicide prevention tools.

Tests of the Messenger tools will be expanded over the next several months, Facebook says, adding that the gradual increase will ensure that organizations can support the volume of communications.

“Suicide prevention is one way we’re working to build a safer community on Facebook,” the company said. “With the help of our partners and people’s friends and family members on Facebook, we’re hopeful we can support more people over time.”

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.