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Facebook using artificial intelligence as means of suicide prevention

NEW YORK -- Facebook is turning to artificial intelligence to detect if someone might be contemplating suicide. 

The social media giant already has mechanisms for flagging posts from people thinking about harming themselves. The new feature is intended to detect such posts before anyone reports them.   

CBS Philadelphia reports the AI tools use pattern recognition to identify signals, like comments asking if someone is OK. The Facebook team will then be alerted and will work to quickly get the person help.   

The company is also using AI to prioritize the order that flagged posts are sent to its human moderators so they can quickly alert local authorities.    

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"In the last month alone, these AI tools have helped us connect with first responders quickly more than 100 times," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post Monday. "With all the fear about how AI may be harmful in the future, it's good to remind ourselves how AI is actually helping save people's lives today."  

In the future, the AI tool will be able to understand more of the subtle nuances of language, according to Zuckerberg. It will be able to identify different issues beyond suicide, including bullying and hate. 

Facebook has already been testing the feature in the U.S. and is making it available in most other countries. The European Union is excluded, though; Facebook won't say why.

The use of AI technology follows steps Facebook announced earlier this year to improve its suicide prevention tools. Those measures included creating a streamlined process for people to report posts about suicide or self-injury or concerns that someone might harm themselves while broadcasting on Facebook Live.

The company also announced plans in March to add another 3,000 employees to the team of 4,500 assigned to monitor Facebook Live video streams for violent content.

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