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Shannon Geames from Tennessee, wears suicide prevention wristbands while lobbying Congress. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Coinciding with World Suicide Prevention Day, Facebook is announcing a series of policy changes designed to keep users from encouraging self-harm, while also trying to preserve the ability for people to discuss their struggles without shame.

Why it matters: Globally, someone dies every 40 seconds by suicide and experts say up to 25 times as many will attempt suicide.

Deciding just what to allow and not allow on social networks is a tricky balance and something Facebook has been wrestling with for more than a decade. The new changes are the result of the latest consultations with experts over the past year.

Specifically, Facebook is

  • tightening its rules to limit graphic depictions of cutting on Facebook and Instagram
  • tightening its policies around acceptable images related to eating disorders
  • hiring a full-time health and well-being expert on its safety team to focus on these and other issues
  • promoting the #chatsafe guidelines designed to help encourage healthy dialogue with those dealing with suicidal feelings
  • looking for ways to share some public user data with the academic community, starting with two researchers who study suicide prevention.

What they're saying: "While suicide prevention work and dealing with self-harm can be some of the most challenging policy work we do, it's also some of the most important work we do," Facebook global head of safety Antigone Davis told Axios.

In creating the new policies, Davis said Facebook is trying to limit people from unwittingly being exposed to harmful content while at the same time preserving preserve opportunities for people to share their struggles and gain a sense of community."

At Facebook we have a unique opportunity to help people connect and find the support they need," Davis said.

Our thought bubble: Facebook needs to perform a delicate and difficult balancing act. Sharing thoughts of suicidal intention, self-harm and disordered eating can have a contagious effect. At the same time, people dealing with these issues need outlets to talk about them or they suffer shame and isolation. Sharing one's struggles can provide relief — yet what's helpful to someone posting could end up being harmful to someone reading.

What's next: Facebook is moving to place greater emphasis on private groups and messaging. That will only make these issues thornier. And, of note, today Facebook doesn't proactively screen private groups for the types of content banned under the new policies. Rather, it relies on reports from users, meaning someone within the group would need to voice a complaint.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."