Search engines can help prevent suicidal overdoses in the opioid crisis
- insert_drive_file Peer-Reviewed Presentations
- event 2021
- translate English
With increasing numbers of drug-overdose deaths in the United States, Google prompts to help resources when users search for suicide-related terms. However, the search engine does so at varying display rates. To determine whether such suboptimal algorithmic decision-making also applies for potential self-harm through overdosing, we emulated N = 215,999 searches across the U.S. Findings show that help resources were displayed at high rates after potentially harmful search queries (e.g., "how to commit suicide") but at substantially lower rates when drug-related terms, indicative of users' suicidal overdosing tendencies, were added (e.g., "how to commit suicide fentanyl"). This is problematic as it does not show already implemented help in the moment where it is most needed. Search engines should adjust algorithms to increase these display rates to contribute to suicide prevention.
Haim, M., Scherr, S., & Arendt, F. (5/2021). Search engines can help prevent suicidal overdoses in the opioid crisis. Presented at the 71st Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, Denver. (content_copy)