Google Responds To "Suicide" Queries


Share this Post

The search giant that does everything from take pictures of city streets to research solar power may manage to save some human lives, too.  Google's started to provide people who search for certain suicide-related terms with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's phone number.

Queries for terms and phrases like "suicide," "how to commit suicide," and "ways to commit suicide" now return a red phone icon and the hotline number above the first search result, making them impossible to miss.

This counts as a pretty significant change.  Dr. Roni Zeiger, Google's chief health strategist, explained to Noam Cohen that his company's only tailored its responses in this manner once before, providing a poison control number after one mother made a suggestion.

Of course, many phrases related to suicide still don't trigger anything aside from ordinary search results, and it's hard to say if the image of a red telephone will deter anyone from ending his or her life.

Additional adjustments may be on the way, though, considering that Zeiger told Cohen, "We looked at many of the possible queries that could reflect interest in the topic.  We are starting relatively conservatively."