Facebook urges users to report suicidal posts
December 19, 2011By Maiken Scott
Facebook wants to help prevent suicide—offering resources when people threaten on their Facebook pages to end their own lives.
Facebook users often discuss emotions and frustrations, and the site has also seen its share of suicide notes. Now Facebook users can report posts that look like suicide threats, and the social networking site will then send an email to the suicidal person, encouraging them to call a helpline, or setting them up to chat online with a counselor.
Facebook asks users who spot someone in trouble to call law enforcement right away, but offers this as an additional resource.
Delaware County school psychologist and psychology professor Terri Erbacher likes this new option because it uses a technology where especially young people feel comfortable. She thinks Facebook will also raise suicide awareness.
"We are so afraid to talk about it, we are so afraid to say it, so by putting it on there, it's saying we are concerned and we want to do something about it," said Erbacher.
Temple University Social Work professor Jonathan Singer said he generally supports this new tool, but is concerned about privacy issues, especially given the network's history of playing fast and loose with personal information.
"The privacy laws around health care are so strict, and this seems to fly in the face of it," said Singer.
He has reservations about the efficiency of this new tool. Time is usually of the essence when it comes to suicide threats, and with this option, users have to contact Facebook, and then Facebook has to reach out to them.
Experts have also expressed concern that this might open the door to Facebook monitoring of other health issues.