People Will Lose Their Gun Rights Over This

I’ve already largely stopped posting Facebook on my personal timeline. I still keep my account for my blog and club, and the occasional comment thrown around. But this makes me want to swear it off entirely.

This is software to save lives. Facebook’s new “proactive detection” artificial intelligence technology will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts, and when necessary send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or contact local first-responders. By using AI to flag worrisome posts to human moderators instead of waiting for user reports, Facebook can decrease how long it takes to send help.

I can’t really tell you how much I loathe social media. I’d love to see these companies crash and burn. They are doing nothing to make our lives better. When I was growing up, I was promised my future would be all Mars bases and Flying Cars, and Facebook is what I get? OK, sure, I got the Star Trek PADD and communicators, but what do we use them for? That’s right. Cat videos.

You see, it’s not that I am now or have ever been suicidal. I’ve said before, that I will never be suicidal is something I can pretty much guarantee. I like existence too much. But I don’t trust this not to have a lot of false positives, and there are very real consequences to alerting the authorities that someone might be a danger to themselves or others; loss of gun rights being the primary issue for this blog.

In many states, even an observational trip to the loony bin will land you a state and federal prohibition. Pennsylvania is one of them. If you ever find yourself in a situation where first-responders show up concerned that the Facebook AI has determined you’re going off the deep end, make sure you go voluntarily. Make sure you tell everyone you deal with you’re there voluntarily. Because if they take you against your will, now you have much bigger issues if you own guns. Even if they let you go, if you haven’t made arrangements, if you arrive home to a safe full of guns, congratulations, you’ve just made yourself a felon in addition to having to endure contact with the state mental health system.

30 thoughts on “People Will Lose Their Gun Rights Over This”

  1. good thing i mostly use facebook to play a stupid flash game about trains, these days.

    i have, in fact, been suicidal — decades in the past, in my even more foolish youth. i eventually got past it, partly through support from online acquaintances — support of the diametrically opposite sort this idiocy will “provide”.

    this nonsense will not, because it cannot, provide anything i would have needed in those years; understanding, a (human!) listening ear without judgment or condemnation, practical hints and tips for how to live my life a little easier and make the burden a little lighter. what this will provide is oppression; a non-sentient machine big brother turning kids in to the authorities for thought crime. it will alienate the people who most need human connections.

    this crap will probably trigger on precisely the sorts of things i used as coping mechanisms back then; tasteless black humor and semi-nihilistic investigations into which suicide methods not to use, because too painful and/or unreliable (and here’s the list of reasons why). and, of course, the self-reassuring statements that i wasn’t actually trapped in that pain, because i DID have access to one method that would suffice, and so i could carry on another day because the option to check out if i couldn’t was, in fact, there.

    i could probably have managed without the option of venting my spleen like that online, in those days. but it would have sucked that much harder if i’d had to keep it all inside for fear of triggering some mindless, soulless call-the-cops-bot.

    the ‘net has gone downhill badly since we started letting the non-computer geeks get online back in the early nineties. time, perhaps, to call it done and move off to some new digital medium? i bet we could reinvent UUCP and start up some modern equivalent of the old BBSes / Usenet over the darknet…

  2. I look forward to the Supreme Court “clarifying” that that part of 18 USC 922 needs actual due process, not “Well, someone called in, and maybe it wasn’t voluntary? So that’s our due process, ha ha!”

    But that’s why the Supreme Court is important…

  3. Not only that but people will die over this, some police departments do not have a good track record of dealing with supposedly suicidal people.

    1. Depends on your metric. Some of them are really, really good at preventing suicides, if not saving the person’s life.

  4. I cancelled my account. That was a bit of an adventure as they did not want me to but I persevered. Since I was afraid to post anything, it wasn’t doing me much good.

  5. There will be false positives, with real-world consequences for those caught in the net.

    There will also be false negatives: people successfully committing suicide who Facebook’s AI failed to detect.

    What do you suppose Facebook’s legal (criminal AND civil) liability will be for false positives and false negatives, especially as society collectively comes to rely on it — as it inevitably will?

    I avoided social media for a long time, seeing sites like MySpace and Facebook (and Twitter, Snapchat, and on and on…) as a massive time-suck and an unfit substitute for real-life human interaction. I finally set up an account, partially to reconnect with old friends, but mostly because FB Messenger is the easiest way to video-chat with my wife and kids when I’m away.

    That’s my entire reason for having it at all.

    Many of my friends could come off online as depressed to an observer, but in real life they’re generally OK. Everyone has problems, of course; most people deal with them normally, and many use social media to vent. That’s fine, but how much of that venting can or will trigger Facebook’s “suicide watch” AI? And how many will the AI miss because they “act normal” online? And again, what is Facebook’s liability for errors?

  6. The first person to have a friend or relative who’s on FB and commits suicide without FB catching it beforehand should sue the living crap outta them for their failure.

  7. The proper remedy is to sue the pants off them when it happens, for making it happen.

  8. I quit Facebook nearly 2 years ago, and that combined with never joining Twitter has vastly improved my quality of life. I was an early adopter on Facebook as an undergrad at MIT, but they managed to lose relevance for me by the time I hit my 30s. This kind of BS is sadly not at all surprising at this point.

    1. I mostly use it as a platform to share photos of my kids with family: I have a large extended family that’s scattered across the country, with my wife, me, and our kids living in a different country. A lot of the family members have young kids, so it’s a good way to share photos, experiences, etc.

      If it disappeared tomorrow, it’d be mildly annoying to swap everything over to some new system that we’d all use, but it’s not a big deal.

      I honestly don’t understand how people get sucked into it as much as they do, but I hope my kids when they get older don’t bother with such things.

  9. I once contemplated joining FACEBOOK, because of family pressure (they were all on it, so they were talking to each other but I couldn’t hear).

    Then I went through the “joining” process, and discovered that Facebook wanted personal information which I was unwilling to supply .. such as a photocopy of my drivers license!

    So I gave THAT up for a “Game of Soldiers”!

    I don’t like being very very open about my personal information.

    My personal opinion? Oh, hell yes! And always with an email address where someone can challenge me; it’s only fair.

    My family and friends know how to reach me. Phone, address, photo … all freely shared with trusted partners.

    But that I should let a bunch of strangers know where I live, how to phone me, etc?

    No … I’ve decided that if my family has an issue which they wish to share with me privately, I don’t want to hear about it on some intrusive public forum.

      1. Hunh – in the process of proving this to myself, I have discovered that one of my “throwaway” email accounts was compromised and used to create a FB account a while back. Which appears to be locked up and FB wants me to provide a photo ID to unlock…

        That suggests to me someone used that email address to create a facebook profile already.

        Anyway, with a different throwaway email address, all I had to do was provide the email address and create a facebook profile. The only thing they know is my “name,” that email address, and the unique password I chose for the account.

        If you didn’t create the profile, then you might want to change your email passwords.

  10. I wouldn’t give up any of the friendships I’ve made and maintain via Facebook; because they are with people I have no convenient way of catching up with in person. But I try and recall that I’m hanging out in a public place with these people, and others can overhear…

  11. As a former paramedic in the People’s Republik of Kalifornia, I can say that the advice to “go voluntarily” is very good advice. IF FACEBOOK OR ANYONE ELSE CALLS THE COPS AND SAYS YOU ARE SUICIDAL, YOU ARE ALMOST CERTAINLY GOING TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL – THE ONLY QUESTION AT THAT POINT IS WILL YOU KEEP YOUR GUN RIGHTS. In California and may other states, the field evaluation of mental health falls to cops. Transportation and care is done by EMS. Cops, quite correctly, feel that they are greatly under qualified to make these calls – so they error on the side of caution. However, if you tell them that you understand the position they are in and that you will go voluntarily, they may just skip the paperwork and just send you in the ambulance. Sadly, I have seen officers fill out 5150 forms even when the subject had agreed to go without the need for one. I have even seen such people be released before we left the hospital, minus, of course, their gun rights.

  12. Don’t have much sympathy. Facebook is exactly like standing on a table in the food court at the mall and yelling out the color of your last bowel movement. We. Do. Not. Care.

    If you don’t want to have guns taken away, don’t post threats or suicidal ideas on Facebook. You would not do it at work, at school, or at the mall, so don’t do it on Facebook. And if you do do this on Facebook, I think the same of you as someone doing it anywhere else. You are serious, or are desperate for attention. Either way, should be taken seriously.

    1. Yes, I agree with this sentiment, but caution is nonetheless in order. It’s hard to predict what an AI might consider suicidal. Heck, an AI might not consider any one note to be suicidal, but that a group of notes might indicate suicidal tendencies!

      So it’s *very* good advice to make it clear that, if police show up at your door thinking you are suicidal, to make it clear that you are going to the hospital voluntarily.

  13. I’m sorry but just exactly gave you the right to have somebody locked up? You could have just bitten off more than you can swallow so please don’t choke on it.

  14. I don’t think FB has any business trying to take away our guns! The 2nd amendment was conceived for our protection from any harm that may come to us. It is also more importantly a protection for all Americans against tyranny & invasion of our country.

  15. This makes me think of something I saw recently which essentially said “1984 was meant to be a warning, not a how to manual”. One does have to wonder if Orwell is being taught in schools anymore or not?

  16. Hitler would have loved to have that capability, and Putin will surely investigate how he can use it. As I have said in other posts, Zuckerberg thinks his name starts with a “g” and ends with a “d”. Using this kind of crap to relieve someone of firearms, without any kind of hearing, crime or recourse IS exactly why we have the Second Amendment. It’s an intrusion the Bill of Rights is denied to the government so why in Hell should a corporation be permitted to engage in such activity?

  17. Save their life, and they will come back and sue you for it! Just saw a post on fb this week about a case already!

  18. In a few states, this is a real risk, like PA and CA. But unless it is an involuntary commitment (quite rare and hard in most states), you have nothing to worry about. Facebook seems no worse than an annoying neighbor who calls the police or of concern for your mental health, and less likely to be taken seriously. Police get enough welfare check calls that software is not going to be a high priority call.

  19. I want to clear up an important misconception when it comes to that “72 hour psych hold” business, where someone can be legally involuntarily held for observation for up to 72 hours, and then according to the law, are either then lawfully committed to a mental institution OR they are RELEASED. Legally speaking, one of those two things has to happen after that maximum of 72 hours – they are either diagnosed and committed OR they are released. Period.

    Lets say some poor young woman suddenly and tragically finds out she has forever lost her husband. Perhaps he was killed in a car accident or perhaps killed overseas in the war. The precise details do not matter for this example, other than that we have a young woman who is in seriously horrible grief at suddenly being widowed with young children to raise all by herself and such. You get the idea.

    In her impossibly immense grief she gets a little too hysterical, and this scares some well meaning friends and relatives enough that they call 911 for help. The woman finds herself hauled off by the police to the local hospital, where she is involuntarily placed into the psych ward for up to 72 hours, as per the “72 hour psych hold” laws. She basically said some crazy things and scared people. Ask any widow or widower what suddenly losing a close loved one is like.

    After those 72 hours run out she is RELEASED – because that is what the law requires. They have no choice but to either legally adjudicate her as being somehow mentally unfit and have her committed for some longer period of time, or declare her to be no immediate danger to herself or others and let her go. One of these two things has to happen. Its the law.

    So they release her after those 72 hours run out and somehow, one day at a time, her life goes on, even without her dearly departed husband. What matters here *legally* is she has no other criminal record and she was never committed to a mental institution. She was only held for observation and then released after no longer than 72 hours as the law requires. Her name was therefore never added to the NICS block list – again because she was only put into a “psych hold” for observation and then released – never committed – and so she can most certainly still legally buy and own firearms!!!!

    She can honestly and legally answer NO to all of the appropriate questions on that 4473 form that you fill out when buying a gun, BECAUSE SHE WAS NEVER COMMITTED TO A MENTAL INSTITUTION OR OTHERWISE ADJUDICATED IN A COURT OF LAW AS MENTALLY UNFIT. Yes, she _was_ involuntarily placed into an involuntary “72 hour psych hold” and then released after no more than 72 hours as the law requires, but that is not at all the same thing as being formally diagnosed as having whatever mental illness and then committed to a mental institution for treatment. Legally or otherwise.

    Am I being clear enough? TALK TO A LAWYER or even just talk to a few friendly local police and you will find this to be perfectly true. If you have no criminal record and the worst thing in your past is, somewhat like the above tragic widow example, you were once held for up to 72 hours in some pysch ward and then released (as opposed to then being officially diagnosed and committed for some longer period of time than that), then you have NOT lost any of your constitutional rights. Including your right to keep and bear arms.


    Don’t go spreading dangerous assumptions as fact, like saying that being involuntarily held for 72 hours and then released is somehow legally the same as being _committed to a mental institution_, which requires being lawfully diagnosed as being somehow mentally unfit. World’s of difference under the law. TALK TO A LAWYER if in doubt.

    in short, I know someone who strongly resembles that fictional widow I described above, and she went for YEARS believing that she couldn’t legally keep and bear arms because of her once being involuntarily locked up in a psych ward for 72 hours and then released. I talked to several local police I know who all told me the same thing, and long story short, she checked into the law for herself, and then – perfectly legally – sailed right through that NICS background check when buying a handgun, and now enjoys ALL of her constitutionally protected rights. I sure wouldn’t want to be the idiot who breaks into her house and finds himself on the wrong side of her lawfully owned firearm, that’s for sure. :-)

    Oh, and YES, this was all in Pennsylvania.

  20. I’m waiting for the argument that “he didn’t have a Facebook account because he was afraid their AI would show he’s suicidal, so we need to have him committed.”

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