Facebook user's fake suicide threat lands him in psych ward

In our modern world, people often take their woes online, leaving hints about private troubles or outright threatening suicide as a last-ditch cry for help. Facebook, being the most popular of social networks, is one of the places a person is likely to turn, and so it isn't surprising the company has implemented so-called suicide prevention tools. Those tools were recently updated, and one user — making a fake threat — has ended up demonstrating how well it works.

The user in question is 48-year-old Shane Tusch, an electrician who lives in California. According to a report from the BBC, Tusch decided to test out Facebook's new updated suicide prevention tools by posting a threat about hanging himself from the Golden Gate Bridge. Someone who read the status reported it.

As is supposed to happen, the user was locked out of his Facebook account. The local police were also alerted however, according to a letter from Consumer Watchdog sent to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. According to the letter, Tusch was "committed to a mental institution because of a post he made exercising his First Amendment rights and a "welfare check-in" call that Facebook facilitated or made under Facebook's new suicide prevention program."

The letter goes on to criticize the suicide prevention tool, saying:

Police have strict duties to act on "welfare check-ins" or they will be liable for bad results. Facebook facilitated this man's loss of freedom for 70 hours and other innocent victims will be caught in Facebook's web if you do not improve the suicide prevention program's procedures. One concern Consumer Watchdog has includes the possibility that some people could commit suicide as a direct result of the actions that Facebook takes to prevent it. Imagine a teenager erroneously tagged as suicidal in an act of bullying, or a post made by one teenager on another's computer that leads to such a tag and the teenager being locked out of their account. For young people, such an unconscionable act may do more to prompt them to commit suicide than the lack of an "intervention."

The suicide prevention tool has been hailed as a good step toward combating the issue of suicide, but some have pointed out its potential issues, included among them being a lack of distinction between jokes and serious statements, and its susceptibility to trolling.