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Teens Can Report Suicidal Behavior via Facebook Chat

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on December 21, 2011 8:48 AM

Facebook and Lifeline, a national suicide prevention organization, are about to enter into a new partnership that may save lives. Facebook's new suicide chat feature allows someone feeling suicidal to directly interface with counselors over the web.

The way the feature works is relatively simple. Users who see their friends post suicidal comments can "report" the posting to Facebook.

Facebook will vet the comment to see if it's legitimate. If it is, it will send a user an email that will contain information about Lifeline's services. The email will also contain a direct link so that users can easily start a live chat with a Lifeline counselor.

It's a move that may well save lives. After all, some might find it easier to and more comfortable to chat with a counselor over the web, reports the AP.

Others might wonder if this might be an invasion of privacy. After all, maybe the suicidal individual only meant to post the status to their close friends. It's not likely that they wanted their comments or status messages reported to Facebook.

That said, persons that post comments or status messages on Facebook don't necessarily have a reasonable expectation of privacy in messages they post on Facebook. Posts on Facebook can be "public."

Why is having a reasonable expectation of privacy so important? It is a necessary component of an invasion of privacy claim, for instance.

Maybe Facebook and Lifeline's collaboration will provide beneficial results. Facebook's suicide chat function might help spot individuals who are crying out for help over the web.

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