While Facebook is often blamed for promoting positive rather than negative posts via its algorithm controlling the newsfeed, the company has rolled out a service for those who are suicidal and in need of help.
With the company launching a helpline with assistance from NGOs, the social network is expected to launch one of the largest suicide prevention initiatives in the world.
The service which was rolled out globally on Tuesday has already been tested in some countries where friends can go online and anonymously report suicidal behaviour to Facebook which then sends a message to the person asking them to either call a helpline or connect with a friend or get tips.
The company has tied up with NGOs around the world with two of them —AASRA and the Live Love Laugh Foundation— in India.
While Facebook can only offer some relief to those posting suicidal thoughts, this will still help given people are spending more time online and the company has 1.65 billion users of which 125 million are in India—which according to a WHO report accounted for highest number of suicides in 2012.
But the success rate will depend on people flagging a user’s suicidal behaviour. A better answer to the problem—which may be in development—can come from technology.
While Facebook has been screening data to improve its chatbots, it can use cognitive artificial intelligence to recognise emotions as well. Not that it is not possible, the company has been screening abusive posts and comments as well and had claimed in a Tech Crunch report that its bots were able to track down more abusive posts than humans.
With people living out their lives on social networks, Facebook can certainly go beyond just plain-vanilla connecting users.