New progress in AI research can monitor people for signs of suicidal behavior. Source: Engadget

Applications for artificial intelligence have become more and more diverse over the last few years. However, no one would have thought that AI could actually be used to save lives. Facebook has launched a new “proactive detection” AI technology that is designed to scan all posts on the platform. The aim of this technology is to identify patterns of suicidal thoughts.

The AI will send mental health resources to the person at risk or their friends. It will also contact local first-responders. The technology will basically scour the web for all the data it can find. However, its application in the EU will be problematic due to stricter privacy laws. The social media giant has added that it will dedicate more moderators to suicide prevention soon.

Facebook believes that the new technology will help detect people who are at risk of suicide and will also alert first-responders. This will make a huge difference. However, although the use of AI in this case is for a good cause, it may face significant pushback.

This could potentially save lives, especially from depressed people accessing Facebook Live. Source: TechCrunch

The idea of Facebook scanning content proactively and somewhat monitoring what people post could cause privacy concerns among users. Many users will wonder whether the data collected using the technology will be used solely for detecting suicidal patterns or perhaps the social media giant may decide to find other commercial applications for it.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the technology saying that there is a lot of potential for AI technology to go beyond suicide detection. However, the problem with the technology is that it’s mandatory. In other words, if you are a Facebook user, the technology will track and monitor your posts for suicidal patterns whether you like it or not. There is no option to opt out.

It might just save lives, but at what cost? Source: Engadget

We have seen a number of incidents where people have killed themselves on Facebook Live. Facebook want to use AI technology, crowdsourced reports, and human moderators on the platform to prevent these tragedies. Live broadcasts that feature people killing themselves could play a key role in glorifying suicide. This could trigger more deaths, especially for people with suicidal thoughts. Facebook Live is one of key areas where the social media giant will focus on. Live videos that are deemed suicidal in nature will be detected and brought down before they reach more users.

As for posts, the AI technology will detect and flag posts that match suicide-risk patterns. Human moderators will then take over from there. The moderators will highlight the parts of the post that indicate it’s a suicide risk. Users will be categorized in terms of urgency based on the data collected. Users who are categorized as urgent will get faster attention.

The social media platform has over two billion users and if indeed this AI technology works as advertised, it could significantly play a big part in reducing suicide rates around the world.