If you’re considering suicide, Facebook now stands ready to get you some help.
The gigantic social-networking site said Tuesday that if any of its 800 million users type a post saying they are contemplating suicide, the site will offer to connect them to a crisis counselor through the site’s chat system.
But the system requires human intervention, in the form of a friend who clicks on a link next to a troubling comment, the Associated Pressreports today. Facebook says it then will send an email to the people concerned, encouraging them to call a crisis hotline or click through to a confidential chat with a counselor.
Facebook has been trying to do more to make its site more socially responsible. In March, the company announced new tools to protect users from online bullying, including a way to report threats to Facebook, and to let a parent, teacher, or trusted friend know.
Last year, the social-media giant started partnering with gay rights organizations to combat anti-gay cyberbullying.
But the anti-suicide effort is the first that isn’t intended to reduce malicious use of Facebook. Instead, it’s using Facebook’s vast networks to try to identify people in the midst of a mental-health crisis, and get them help.
“This is really problematic,” says Pam Dixon, executive director of theWorld Privacy Forum a nonprofit public interest research group. We all want to prevent suicide, she says, “but I’m not sure this is the right way to do it.”