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Facebook Live Has A Suicide Problem. But Zuckerberg Might Have An Answer

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic.

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor

Facebook plans on rolling out several new features to help prevent suicides, after a number of people have taken their own life while broadcasting on its live stream function.

“Facebook is in a unique position — through friendships on the site — to help connect a person in distress with people who can support them,” the social media company announced in an official blog post.

The tech conglomerate highlighted the importance of the new tools with telling statistics, e.g. the fact that “there is one death by suicide in the world every 40 seconds, and suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15-29 year olds.”

One of the tools and resources Facebook offers is “live chat support from crisis support organizations” through its proprietary Messenger app. Another is updating its artificial intelligence functionality, specifically streamlining reporting capabilities and adding technology that can help identify certain patterns of social media activity that may signal self-harm.

“Our Community Operations team will review these posts and, if appropriate, provide resources to the person who posted the content, even if someone on Facebook has not reported it yet,” the company’s blog post explains.

Facebook says it has had suicide prevention tools in place for more than 10 years by collaborating with several mental health organizations, including “Save.org,” National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Forefront, and Crisis Text Line.

But the new features “will now be integrated into Facebook Live.”

And such tools appear to be needed, as more and more people are using online live streaming services like Facebook Live as a means to broadcast their suicides.

Frederick Jay Bowdy, an aspiring actor, killed himself in North Hollywood earlier this year while using Facebook’s live stream, just days after he was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, according to the Los Angeles Times. A relative contacted the Los Angeles Police Department after Bowdy, who was reportedly in his car, told viewers that he was planning on committing suicide. (RELATED: Two Teen Girls Die In Car Crash While Live Streaming On Facebook)

Naika Venant, a 14-year-old girl from Florida, took her own life in January. Friends and other Facebook users witnessed the death on the platform’s live stream, according to the Miami Herald.

Katelyn Nicole Davis, a 12-year-old girl from Georgia, was live streaming as she hanged herself in the front yard of her home in December. Prior to the suicide, Davis explained while recording that she had been sexually molested by a family member, according to the Daily Mail. (RELATED: Gang Live-Streams Rape Of Unconscious Woman On Facebook)

Davis reportedly utilized the live streaming medium “Live.me,” but it was later uploaded to Facebook and YouTube.

Such tragic situations exemplify an underlying and growing problem, while also prompting the question: are suicides more tempting under the view of others?

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