Facebook steps up suicide prevention
March 27, 2015
A Facebook suicide prevention initiative has been welcomed by mental health groups.
Facebook will roll out suicide prevention and support tools for vulnerable Australian users in the next few months, according to the social network’s local head of policy.
The initiative was welcomed by mental health groups when it was unveiled in the United States earlier this year.
It allows users to report concerning online posts, which are then reviewed by Facebook who can then send the original poster a message of support or advice on where to seek professional help.
Mia Garlick, Facebook’s Australia and New Zealand policy head, said the company was working with the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre on a localised version of the suicide prevention initiative.
“All the feedback has been strong and powerful from a lot of the clinical experts and we’re looking forward to rolling that out in Australia in the coming months,” she told Fairfax Media.
Facebook has also ramped up its campaign to tackle bullying, taking its approach off screen for the first time in Queensland during a workshop with students and teachers last week.
Ms Garlick said initial reports of abuse or bullying online were handled by teams working round-the-clock in the United States, Ireland and India. There were also Australian staff who could work with police if required.
However Ms Garlick said the social network does not keep statistics on the bullying complaints it receives, or data on who the culprits and victims are.
“We don’t have those statistics and sometimes I’m not sure that statistics help us tell the story. For every person who does get bullied, it’s such a strong and bad situation that almost looking at the numbers doesn’t help,” she said.
“What we want to do is solve [problems] every single time it happens and make sure those people feel supported.”
Ms Garlick welcomed the announcement of Australia’s first children’s e-safety commissioner, who has the power to fine Facebook $17,000 a day if it does not comply with takedown orders for offensive material.
It still remains unclear what would happen if the social media site did not agree with an order made by the commissioner.
“We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. We’ve been engaged with the Australian government for many years when it comes to what constitutes harassing bullying and content,” Ms Garlick said.
“For bullying and harassing content, we try and action it within a 24-hour timeframe. Sometimes there’s a lot of context in a bullying situation, and that’s where people on the ground can let us know what that is so we can see it in a proper light … So sometimes it can take longer than 24 hours.”
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