Internet giants take concrete actions against sucide

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri Shimbun As suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in Japan, social media and search engine operators are taking measures to help prevent users from taking their own lives.

According to government statistics, the annual number of suicides in the country topped 30,000 for 14 straight years from 1998. However, the figure has declined every year since 2010, with 21,321 people committing suicide last year. Yet in spite of the chronically low birthrate, 567 minors killed themselves in 2017, a number exceeding the 2010 total.

Accidents are the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 34 in the United States and European countries, but suicide is the leading cause for the same age bracket in Japan.

Last year, Facebook Inc. began displaying a message inquiring “Can we help?” when users inputted search terms including such words as “suicide” on its social network. The social media giant previously launched a system in June 2016 through which users could report posts that prompted concern for a user’s safety. In such cases, Facebook would display the message “Someone on Facebook is worried about you,” with the phone number for a consultation service the next time the user logs in to the site

Meanwhile, Twitter Inc. freezes users’ accounts if their posts are deemed to encourage suicide. In January, the company started displaying a message advising users to seek help if their search terms included words related to suicide.

Major search engine firms Yahoo Japan Corp. and Google Inc. display the phone number for a consultation service if users perform searches that include such phrases as “I want to die.” Yahoo said it improves its search engine to identify more keywords hinting at suicide on an ad hoc basis.Speech

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