I’ve been thinking lately that we could potentially use social media monitoring tools to prevent suicides and mass murders. The idea struck me as I was working with some clients on a couple of issues / crisis management projects lately.
In the midst of the hurley burley of crisis mode, a news story caught my eye. Killer George Sodini went berserk in a Pennsylvania gym and killed three, wounding nine before turning the gun on himself. The thing about it is, he blogged about doing it. That’s when the idea sparked.
So I did some digging
It’s not the first time, that social media was used by a killer or a suicide victim to declare their intentions. With a quick search, I found Paul Zolezzi, a model who declared he was going to kill himself on Facebook and did. More interestingly though, I found Hsu Yu-sheng.
Hsu is a gay and lesbian rights activist in Taiwan, who on August 6 wrote a farewell note on his blog in English. After seeing the note, readers of his blog, launched a full scale effort to save him. Friends and strangers alike, thousands of people banded together, to try to track him down and others posted kind comments to his blog.
Police arrived at Hsu’s place just in time and saved his life.
We use social media monitoring tools such as Radian6 to listen to conversations on the blogosphere and elsewhere to protect brands. It’s not a stretch to deploy these tools to protect people.
How it would work
- Radian6 set up to listen for a list of keywords
- Suspect posts are parsed through to a heuristic analysis engine to further determine the sentiment of the post. Radian6 is has a automatic Sentiment engine built in, but we need one that would be tuned to suicidal/homicidal sentiments
- Results that come up positive there are alerted to the on duty psychiatrist for an assessment and to alert the relevant authorities
There would be many issues that would have to be dealt with to make the system viable, feasible and workable and even then it would never be a certainty. What it would be is another tool in kitbag to tackle an extremely complex and difficult problem.