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Facebook Launches New Feature To Help Combat Addiction

Technology can certainly be a powerful tool in the fight against addiction. And this week, social media giant Facebook took a big step forward; by taking their data science and applying it in the direction of treatment. Several news outlets have been reporting on the site’s newest feature; a Search function that autopopulates recovery options when people type in dependency-related keywords.


In case you’re unfamiliar, “autopopulation” concerns those quick choices you get in your Search bar when you’re Googling a topic. In the new Facebook experience, anyone typing in the words “addiction,” “treatment” or something close to it, would automatically receive an autopopulated recovery hotline link.


The digital rollout is being done in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), as well as several addiction advocacy nonprofit organizations. Facebook policy programs manager, Avra Siegel, made a press announcement to several news companies about the move.


“We look at this as one of a number of steps that we’ve taken and will be taking to find ways to connect the community on Facebook with the resources they need,” Siegel told The Hill.


She also said the social site would be taking more proactive steps to remove dangerous Groups and click ads driving to unregulated treatment centers. Siegel emphasized that Facebook has strict standards and has hired new teams to patrol and clean up news feeds.


“Every time we’re made aware of content on our platform that violates these standards and if Facebook is in any way facilitating activity like drug sales, we remove it,” she added. “We have a number of ways that we’ve tried to prevent the opportunity for that to occur. I think what’s really important is we have a very proactive, iterative process.”


SAMHSA will be closely involved in all of these processes too. Their name will also autopopulate in the addiction-related Facebook searches, guiding users to their national help page which has around-the-clock admins available for online chats and phone calls. Both will be involved in an upcoming one-day opioid summit put together by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Siegel emphasized that Facebook is eager to partner with any and all organizations working to combat the opioid crisis.


“We’re willing and eagerly want to work with the FDA, SAMHSA and whomever to figure out how we make progress here because it’s going to take all of us,” she concluded.