Facebook Taking Proactive Stance Against Suicides

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For Facebook and other social websites, including Twitter, the opportunity potentially to help suicidal users is great, while the challenge of implementing a practical system has been enormous, Wolens said.

"Facebook has a tremendous opportunity. There are over 850 million users on the website, creating the largest community watch group ever," he said. "So while we provide ways to report these possible problems to us, we want to make sure we have the correct processes in place and are doing exactly what experts advocate. Regardless of the size of the problem, we have a tremendous opportunity to help."

Wolens declined to name the other companies Facebook is working with on the issue, though he said they are leading Internet and tech companies. The group first met in January 2011 to begin talking about the problem and possible solutions, and met again in January 2012, he said.

The group's goals are to standardize the best ways a website or Internet company can deal with suicidal users, primarily by offering resources and one-on-one help to those who ask for it. They have consulted with suicide prevention specialists and organizations whose members are at greater risk for suicide, such as the LGBT community and veterans, Wolens said.

"Eventually we'll be able to have best practices that we can go out and distribute to other internet companies and work with the online community on adoption," he said.

While the loose coalition works to formalize its plans, Wolens said Facebook will continue to work with suicide prevention groups to implement resources and raise awareness through its own site.

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