In an effort to “enhance user security”, the social media giant Facebook will begin using AI to peruse through user content and judge whether users exhibit signs of potential suicide.
“This is software to save lives. Facebook’s new ‘proactive detection’ artificial intelligence technology will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts, and when necessary send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or contact local first-responders.”
So speaks the latest piece from TechCrunch about the controversial AI.
While the move to monitor mental health seems to cater to principles of safeguarding the public, it is not difficult to see it for what it is – an extension of surveillance over social media users.
If Facebook personnel were really concerned with the public’s mental health, perhaps a more productive investment of their time and resources would be to examine the nature of addiction and its relation to their blue-thumb service which has been shown to be more addictive than tobacco and alcohol while also producing changes in the brain similar to those observed with cocaine use.
An even more philanthropic action would be to look at the whole slew of negative impacts their service has had on their users:
“Prior research has shown that the use of social media may detract from face-to-face relationships, reduce investment in meaningful activities, increase sedentary behavior by encouraging more screen time, lead to internet addiction, and erode self-esteem through unfavorable social comparison.”
That last one, unfavorable social comparison, is highly associated with depression and suicide. Here is another story relating how social media and screen time is associated with a higher suicide risk.
Are there people at Facebook that genuinely care about the well-being of public? Sure there are. But to believe that this giant data-collection apparatus is somehow imbued with a cultural imperative to decry surveillance on the behalf of corporations, the state, and its agencies is unreasonable.
Facebook became the company it is by selling its users out to third-party interests. This is undeniable.
What is also undeniable is the CIA’s interest in utilizing the information Facebook compiles on users (most of which users hand right over) for its own purposes of surveillance.