This is software to save lives. In the past month, Facebook has pinged over 100 first responders about potentially fatal posts, in addition to those that were reported by someone's friends and family.
The system will direct mental-health resources to at-risk users and their closest friends, and, when deemed appropriate, alert local first-responders. The European Union remains an exception as the region's privacy laws make it hard to use this technology without getting on the bad side of regulators.
"Starting today we're upgrading our AI tools to identify when someone is expressing thoughts about suicide on Facebook so we can help get them the support they need quickly", Zuckerberg wrote in a post on Facebook.
Facebook already has mechanisms for flagging posts from people thinking about harming themselves. Eliminating this step not only means the company can identify cases that may have previously fallen through the cracks, but that they can reach people who need help much faster than before.
Facebook says it's working to release the tool across the US and eventually make it available to most of the world. Facebook didn't have answers about how it would avoid scanning for political dissent or petty crime, with Rosen merely saying "we have an opportunity to help here so we're going to invest in that". In May Facebook said it would hire 3,000 more people to monitor videos and other content. There are certainly massive beneficial aspects about the technology, but its another space where we have little choice but to hope Facebook doesn't go to far.
Facebook first revealed this AI-based "pattern recognition" technology in March.
Facebook is adding AI to existing efforts to prevent suicide.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. "This puts Facebook in a really unique position". And in his own post about the efforts, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, in response to a user who lost her significant other to suicide, that one of his "greatest regrets" is how long it can take to "develop important technology".