Date
20 October 2018
Under the program, social media posts will be monitored with the use of artificial intelligence in order to prevent people from committing suicides. Photo: Reuters
Under the program, social media posts will be monitored with the use of artificial intelligence in order to prevent people from committing suicides. Photo: Reuters

Canada taps AI firm to track suicidal behavior on social media

The Canadian government will team up with a Canadian artificial intelligence and market research company to monitor social media posts based on AI, in order to prevent people from committing suicides.

Canada’s federal government will partner with the Ottawa-based company to devise its strategy so as to define “suicide-related” behavior on social media and “use that classifier” to carry out market research on the general population of the country, Canada’s national public radio and television broadcaster CBC quoted a document published in Public Works as saying.

The government will plan to finalize a contract with Advanced Symbolics Inc. in February.

To anticipate which parts of Canada might see a rise in suicidal behavior, the AI and market research firm will analyze posts from 160,000 social media accounts, targeted at thoughts, behaviors (for example, self-harm, suicide, etc.) and communications (for example, suicidal threats, plans, etc.).

The project is planned to be launched by the end of this month, until June, when it is reviewed as to whether the Canadian government would extend the project. This initial phase of the project will cost less than US$25,000.

If the Canadian government decides to extend the project, it will have the option of extending up to five years, with each one-year extension, totaling a cost up to nearly US$400,000.

Data from the Public Health Agency of Canada revealed suicide, which takes 10 people’s lives each day, is the second major cause of death for Canadian youngsters aged 10 to 19.

Facebook has been recruiting an addition of 3,000 people to its Community Relations team since last May, assisting in reviewing those contents on the platform involving suicides and harming others.

In November last year, Facebook rolled out an initiative that can identify posts which contain suicide threats or are concerned with suicide risk, using AI, MobiHealthNews reported.

The AI, under this mechanism, prioritizes high-risk posts so that the Community Relations team can handle the most urgent danger first. The AI can, if required, alert first responders as well.

Erin Kelly, chief executive of Advanced Symbolics, said the company is the world’s only research firm which was able to accurately predict Brexit, the 2016 US presidential election, and the 2015 Canadian election, CBC reported.

Kelly said the research firm, which only look for trends, rather than individual cases, observes netizens’ behavior from public posts, not infringing people’s privacy.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 4

Translation by Jonathan Chong

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

JC/CG

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