Facebook will expand its pattern recognition software to other countries after successful tests in the US to detect users with suicidal intent, the world’s largest social media network said on Monday.
Facebook began testing the software in the United States in March, when the company started scanning the text of Facebook posts and comments for phrases that could be signals of an impending suicide.
Facebook has not disclosed many technical details of the program, but the company said its software searches for certain phrases that could be clues, such as the questions “Are you ok?” and “Can I help?”
If the software detects a potential suicide, it alerts a team of Facebook workers who specialize in handling such reports. The system suggests resources to the user or to friends of the person such as a telephone help line. Facebook workers sometimes call local authorities to intervene.
Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president for product management, said the company was beginning to roll out the software outside the United States because the tests have been successful. During the past month, he said, first responders checked on people more than 100 times after Facebook software detected suicidal intent.
Facebook said it tries to have specialist employees available at any hour to call authorities in local languages.
“Speed really matters. We have to get help to people in real time,” Rosen said.