Buffalo Tech Consulting recently surveyed adults in Western New York about how social media makes them feel. While some expressed concerns about social media’s effect on their own mental health, an overwhelming majority supported protections for underage social media users.
85% said they support in-app warning labels aimed at social media users under the age of 18, according to the opinion poll. The results reflect real concern, just as news breaks overnight regarding Facebook’s content policies regarding self-harm.
CNN and CNBC are reporting on internal Facebook documents recently leaked by The Guardian. The documents give new insight into the uncomfortable role the social media giant now plays as a content regulator and how it treats issues such as violence, hate speech, terrorism, pornography, racism and self-harm.
Livestreams of attempted self-harm are allowed on social media
Facebook will allow users to livestream self-harm and suicide attempts because it doesn’t want to censor or punish people in distress, according to the documents. If the person can no longer be helped, the footage will be taken down, unless the incident is deemed newsworthy.
Moderators are advised to ignore suicide threats expressed through hashtags or emoticons, or when the proposed method is unlikely to succeed.
Facebook responded to the report in a statement to CNNMoney, stating that it is trying to make it easier for reviewers to contact law enforcement if someone needs help.
Getting smarter about suicide prevention
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds. In March, America’s most popular social media platform announced it is testing the ability for artificial intelligence (AI) to identify potential “suicide or self injury” posts based on pattern recognition.
Facebook says it’s in a unique position to do more about the suicide epidemic.
“There have been terribly tragic events — like suicides, some live streamed — that perhaps could have been prevented if someone had realized what was happening and reported them sooner,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “Going forward, there are even more cases where our community should be able to identify risks related to mental health, disease or crime.”
Buffalo Tech Consulting will continue following these developments. Social media platforms are constantly evolving and these leaked documents may have future impact on how businesses and brands are allowed to engage youth populations.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Help is available at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.