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Indigenous health officials raise concern over Facebook’s suicide prevention efforts

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Facebook said it has “more to do” after federal officials focused on Indigenous health expressed concerns about the “intuitiveness and appropriateness” of a safety feature meant to support suicide prevention.

Facebook debuted the feature—which allows users to flag posts where friends appear to express suicidal thoughts—to Canadian users in June 2016. After reviewing a reported post and confirming it may indicate a user has suicidal feelings, Facebook sends the user notifications that one of their friends has tried to help and offers access to suicide prevention resources.

According to a memo prepared last year—obtained by The Logic through an access-to-information request—Indigenous Services Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) first raised issue with the feature to Facebook in June 2017, and internally noted it “may instead increase stigma around suicide and mental health.”

Government officials followed up with Facebook in September using screenshots to describe the issues and held a conference call with the company on Sept. 21, 2017.

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