Facebook responds to live video suicide

Social Media & Suicide Prevention

Good morning and thank you for having me.

In 1991, a young boy the age of eleven woke to the sobs of his older sister who was just told that her best friend’s younger brother had just hung himself in the family’s garage. This nine-year-old boy couldn’t understand what was happening or why he wouldn’t see David at school anymore.

David was kind and warm hearted. Even though he was older than that nine-year-old, he joked with him in the halls and laughed with him at lunch.

The nine-year-old went to the funeral with his sister and watched as David’s family shared stories and tried their best to say goodbye to such a young soul.

Twenty-five years later, that boy still drives past the cemetery hill where his friend David was buried, and that boy, now a man, wondering what life would have been like if someone had reach David before it was too late. What would David have been like as a man, as a father and a friend?

My name is Greg Daily. I am the founding partner of the Digital Image Group, a full-service digital marketing agency that launched last year. I have provided services to the largest driver’s education company in Colorado, Colorado Ballet, Regis University and, as some of you know, I now manage the marketing and communications for SPCC.

I am also a contributor to the largest social media marketing website in the world, Social Media Examiner.

You can find this talk, and my presentation notes, on my website at digitalimagegroup.org/spcc.

Sally asked me if I would be willing to come her today and share with you some of what is going on in the world of social media, as it pertains to suicide prevention and mental health, and I said that it would be my honor.

You see, this talk means a great deal to me personally, because I am that nine-year-old boy. I have spent my entire life driving past the hill where my friend is buried, wondering what could have been different.

Today, I would like to talk to you about four things:

  1. What social media leaders are doing right now to affect positive change in suicide prevention on social media.
  2. The scope of impact that social media has in people’s lives.
  3. How we at the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado, and other organizations, are using social media to create safe and inclusive communities for suicide prevention advocates online.
  4. How you as leaders in the conversation and community can leverage these tools to engage people more effectively.

I’m sad to say that since January of this year, several people have broadcast their suicide on Facebook’s video streaming service Facebook Live, the youngest of which was only 12-years-old.

In response to these and other disturbing posts on the popular social media site, Facebook has partnered with organizations like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to develop a set of tools intended to help individuals considered ‘at risk’ for self-harm find resources and support.

The first of these tools is a new suicide-prevention feature that uses artificial intelligence to identify posts indicating suicidal or harmful thoughts. The AI scans the posts and their associated comments, compares them to others that merited intervention, and, in some cases, passes them along to its community team for review. The company plans to proactively reach out to users it believes are at risk, showing them a screen with suicide-prevention resources including options to contact a helpline or reach out to a friend.

While in some cases, the artificial intelligence software will notify the Facebook community if it flags a situation as “very likely urgent”, in most cases it will simply work in the background to offer messaging and advice to the friends and family of a person in need.

Dr. John Draper, of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, said that he feels that the software sounds promising. “If a person is in the process of hurting themselves and this is a way to get to them faster, all the better,” he told BuzzFeed News. “In suicide prevention, sometimes timing is everything.”
Facebook is also making certain suicide prevention organizations available via Facebook Messenger. Facebook users will also have the ability to flag posts that they feel indicate “at risk behavior”, which Facebook will respond to with an on-screen option to receive suicide prevention resources.

 

These activities have not gone unnoticed by Facebook leadership.

 

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, released a memo  February 12 outlining his desire for Facebook to bring people together in a global online community that is safe, supportive and informed. In this memo, he cites research that shows that while a large percentage of the population lacks a sense of hope for the future, most of us are just hungry for a place to belong.
More than 100 million people on Facebook are in what Mr. Zuckerberg calls “very meaningful groups,” and more than 1 billion people belong to at least one Facebook group of some sort.
Let me say that again. One in seven people on earth is in a Facebook group.
These are incredible numbers, that present both incredible opportunities as well as staggering challenges.
Facebook could be right 99% of the time, but with 3 billion users, 1% is many millions of posts containing disturbing content that should have been removed. This is especially difficult when the machine doesn’t always understand the difference between someone bullying someone else or friends who are just roughhousing and talking about a recent movie.
Facebook is not the only site where work is being done to help in suicide prevention efforts.
A group in France is working on a system of monitoring and mining twitter messages classified as “at risk.” These messages are then distributed through a web interface to healthcare professionals equipped to engage those individuals in need.

 

Let’s pause for a moment, and look at the scope of impact

that social media has on our society:

 

Graphic showing global social media activity.
  • 2.8 billion people were using social media by the end of 2016, up 21 percent from 2015.
  • 83% of Americans have a social media account.
  • The top five social media sites:
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • LinkedIn
    • Instagram
    • YouTube
  • SPCC is currently engaging audiences on 2 of these 5 sites.

Facebook:

  • Facebook currently reports 1.86 billion active monthly users.
  • Users used to be younger, 13-18, but the primary demographic of users now skews35+.
  • Facebook is often used in a casual, after business hours, environment to check in with friends and family.
  • The average user will spend 20 minutes a day on Facebook.
  • Facebook search is starting to compete with Google in size.
  • 50% of 18-24 year-olds login to Facebook right when they wake up in the morning. I can attest to this number since it’s what I used to do.
  • Facebook generates over 8 billion video views per day.
  • 300 million photos are uploaded onto Facebook every day.

Twitter:

Suicide isn't beautiful, mental illness isn't beautiful, self-harm isn't beautiful

  • Twitter boasts over 974 million active Twitter accounts.
  • 66% of businesses with 100+ employees have at least one Twitter account.
  • There are more than 300 million active monthly Twitter users.
  • An average of 6,000 tweets are sent every second, 350,000 per minute and 500 million per day.
  • Twitter is a conversational site where people post comments and replies of only 140 characters in length. The messages can incorporate the now popular hashtag which pulls tweets into a single searchable stream of information connected by that hashtag.

LinkedIn:

  • LinkedIn has more than 100 million actively monthly users.
  • Linkedin is the social media site mostly used for professional services, such as hiring employees and displaying resumes and corporate information.
  • LinkedIn also has professional groups, some in the tens of thousands of members, that stretch across the globe.

Instagram:

  • Instagram has more than 600 million actively monthly users.
  • Instagram is a social media site for sharing photos and videos.
  • Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion and has since grown the site to one of the most used social media sites by millennials.
  • Instagram also uses hashtags, which connect images and videos.
  • Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, it is likely that Instagram will also begin using the same algorithm to monitor ‘at risk’ behavior.

YouTube:

  • YouTube is the social media video sharing site, owned by Google, with more than 1 billion monthly visitors.
  • Through special treatment on search by Google, the site has grown to become the second largest search engine on Earth.

 

It isn’t all doom and gloom on social media, however.

Sites like the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado, The Mighty and To Write Love on Her Arms are using social media to engage audiences with messages of help and hope.

We at SPCC are on two of the top five social media sites, Facebook and Twitter. We use both sites to share our news, promote events and attract potential members. We answer questions as well as share news and information from other national sources and do whatever we can with the resources available to engage communities.

TWLOHA: To Write Love On Her Arms is a site that offers hope and help to those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.

  • They have a beautiful website, a Facebook following of 1.5 million and a Twitter following of nearly 300k.
  • Part of what I feel that they are doing well is sharing individual stories of hope and recovery. Even Mark Zuckerberg mentions how much we are all looking to connect with individuals like ourselves; we are looking for shared experiences. TWLOHA is giving people the opportunity to share their experiences.

The Mighty: “We face disability, disease and mental illness together.”

  • Their blog boasts “Real people. Real stories.” with more than 5,000 contributors and over 150 mil readers.
  • They also have a Facebook following of more than 750k and a Twitter audience of 37k.
  • Once again, this is a site that focuses their efforts on shared experiences. Individuals struggling with disability, disease and mental illness write in and share their stories of hope and recovery.
  • One of their top posts about suicide that was shared more than 250,000 times was of one woman’s memory of when Robin Williams bumped into her at an airport just after her husband’s suicide, and only weeks before taking his own life.

Bell Canada: is a telephone company in Canada that is running a “Let’s Talk” campaign that is dedicated to raising $100 million for mental health programs by 2020.

The question now is: How do we connect with people?

 

We at SPCC recently launched a Facebook group, which is meant to be a safe and inclusive place for leaders, such as yourselves, to engage with the community. The group is currently small, but that could quickly change if people began to ask questions, share information and invite their own communities to join in the conversation.
If any of you are on Twitter,  consider doing a periodic search for the keyword: Suicide. Consider finding ways to engage some of the people posting to this space. Many of them are lonely, and sounding hopeless. They are often there looking for someone to hear them and to engage them.
Continued education, legislative action, and connection. All of which are core principles of SPCC, are of course critical to the success of this continued effort.
You can use social media to interact with your legislature. Most politicians today are active on social media and some even have live events on social media, giving us the opportunity to ask them where they stand on issues such as mental health care as well as share with them our opinions on the issues.
There will always be more to do. For now, I view social media as a tool that gives us more of an opportunity to reach individuals like my friend David before it is too late.

Additional Notes:

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