December 14, 2011
Facebook Works to Prevent Suicide, Potential for Misuse
Facebook announced a suicide prevention service on Tuesday that will allow Facebook subscribers to tag posts that they believe show that someone is having suicidal thoughts. When a subscriber sees a post that makes them think someone is having suicidal thoughts, they can use a drop down menu next to that piece of content and select “suicidal content” from the “harmful behavior” menu, according to the Chicago Tribune.
When a piece of content is tagged as suicidal, an invitation for an instant chat with a counselor from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be sent to the person who posted the content.
With 800 million subscribers, half of whom update their status daily, this program can be a great step in preventing some of the 100 suicides that take place every day in the U.S. Like with any new service, the potential for misuse exists.
We know that cyberbullying using social media is a real phenomenon, with the suicide of Megan Meier in 2006 as one of the more high profile examples; the mother of a “friend” of Meier’s created a fake MySpace identity and made friends with Meier, eventually telling her “The world would be a better place without you.” the day she committed suicide.
Without good policies and accountability measures in place, this new chat app could be used to bully or harass other subscribers by sending unsolicited “suicide prevention” chat requests. I think the benefit of the service outweighs the risk, but a policy that limits misuse and protects privacy should be in place.
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