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Tech briefs Dec. 3, 2017

Tech briefs Dec. 3, 2017

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Facebook turns to AI to help prevent suicides

Facebook said last week that it’s using artificial intelligence to detect whether someone is expressing thoughts of suicide in a post or live video.

The company has been grappling with how to respond to suicides streamed live on the world’s largest social network. Family and friends of some suicide victims have criticized Facebook for not pulling down videos depicting self-harm quickly enough before they go viral.

Now the company says it’s stepping up its efforts to prevent people from killing themselves. More workers are also reviewing reports of suicide and self-harm and the company said it’s improving how it identifies first responders.

Through the use of AI, Facebook is looking for patterns that signal a user might be suicidal. Comments such as “Are you OK?” and “Can I help?” are phrases that can indicate someone is in danger.

This helps the company, which has 2 billion users, figure out what reports need to be prioritized.

Facebook said in the past month it has worked with first responders on more than 100 “wellness checks,” which were done after detecting users who may have been expressing suicidal thoughts.

Facebook said it’s rolling out this new AI tool outside the United States first, but plans to make it available worldwide except for in the European Union.

Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg signaled that Facebook is also turning to AI to help flag other type of posts that run afoul of its online rules.

Tumblr CEO David Karp to leave after 11 years in charge

Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp will resign at the end of the year after 11 years in charge.

Karp, who was just 20 when he founded Tumblr in 2007, turned the company into a successful social networking site where artists and bloggers share content.

Yahoo bought Tumblr for $1.1 billion in 2013. By 2016, Tumblr’s market value plummeted to almost zero, as both Yahoo and Tumblr failed to grow as it competed against Facebook and Twitter.

Tumblr Chief Operating Officer Jeff D’Onofrio will take over Karp’s responsibilities.

Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Siemens developing hybrid plane

Airbus, Siemens and Rolls-Royce are teaming up to develop a hybrid passenger plane that would use a single electric turbofan along with three conventional jet engines running on aviation fuel.

The plane is an effort to develop and demonstrate technology that in the future could help limit emissions of carbon dioxide from aviation and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

The three companies said they aim to build a flying version of the E-Fan X technology demonstrator plane by 2020.

The aircraft would be based on the existing BAe 146 four-engine regional jet. The hybrid version would generate electric power through a turbine within the plane. That power would be used to turn the fan blades of the single electric turbofan engine.

If the system works, a second electric motor could be added, the companies said.

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