Technology companies and medical providers experiment with suicide prediction


In 2018, technology companies and medical providers were experimenting with machine learning and AI to mine health records and online posts to identify patterns linked to suicide, hoping to be able to predict, and therefore prevent, such attempts. On the academic side, a pilot programme conducted by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, REACH.VET, attempted to identify veterans at high risk for self-harm. On the commercial side, companies such as Facebook began experimenting with suicide prediction after its introduction of livestreaming in early 2016 led dozens of users to broadcast suicide attempts in real time. Facebook says it never shares suicide predictions with advertisers or data brokers; however, its claim to advertisers in 2017 that it could identify teens who feel "defeated", "worthless", and "useless" makes it hard for users to trust it. In general, attempting to predict suicide risks sending police into people's homes where they may conduct warrantless searches. Regulating this area requires careful testing of the algorithms in use and thoughtful consideration..

Writer: Mason Marks

Publication: Washington Post

Publication date: 2018-12-20