Facebook Is Preparing for a Surge of Depressed and Anxious Users

Mark Zuckerberg is seen in 2010, with Facebook already the largest online social network but before its stock market debut
JUSTIN SULLIVAN/AFP

Social media giant Facebook is reportedly preparing for an increase in depressed and anxious users across its platform based on the Wuhan coronavirus

The Verge reports that as the Chinese coronavirus continues to spread, social media giant Facebook is preparing for an influx of depressed and anxious users across its platform. The company reportedly held a call with CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday to update the press on the steps the firm has taken in response to the crisis. The Verge spoke with Zuckerberg after the call about how the company is shifting its content moderation teams to handle the disruption.

During the conference call, the Facebook CEO expressed his fears over the results of social isolation and what that may mean for the mental health of Facebook users.

I’m personally quite worried that the isolation from people being at home could potentially lead to more depression or mental health issues, and we want to make sure that we are ahead of that in supporting our community by having more people during this time work on things that are on suicide and self-injury prevention, not less.

Human beings are social creatures, but now being social in person brings with it the risk of death and disease. Cities like San Francisco have begun to order citizens to remain indoors for all but making essential purchases, doctor’s visits, and solitary exercise. The initial order has been for three weeks, but there are already hints it could extend longer. California, for example, has said that schools may be shut through the summer break.

Facebook has reportedly seen a surge in the use of its products as a result of the forced isolation of many of its users, Zuckerberg stated that calls on WhatsApp were now at double their normal volume and past their traditional annual peak on New Year’s Eve. A Facebook spokesperson also told The Verge that call volume on Messenger had also doubled. The Verge writes:

“This is the area I’m most worried about,” Zuckerberg told me after the press call. It’s why he had shifted reports of self-harm on Facebook services to full-time employees, bringing in additional staff in anticipation of a spike in cases. “I view the work in this area as akin to the same kind of first-responder work that other health workers or police have to do in order to make sure we’re helping people quickly.”

In the short term, he said, a focus on imminent harm among the user base might mean that Facebook’s performance declines in some categories. (Facebook self-reports data publicly on this subject in its regular transparency reports.) If you have fewer human beings monitoring for spam, for example, you might see more spam on Facebook.

Read the full report in The Verge here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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