I'd imagine that most of you know what the Samaritans Radar is after the affect it's launch had on social media. For those, who don't. The Samaritans, for many understandable reasons, launched an app intended to flag up to people when those they follow on Twitter, say something worrying. Something which might mean they need help.
My thoughts on #SamaritansRadar? Firstly, if people are using Twitter to get help or support from people they might barely know or who are having similar experiences then it raises the question; why are the professionals not good enough? And, those who do use Twitter to get help and support will feel targeted and most likely stop doing this. So, how will they get the help they need? And then there's the do-gooders; those who sign up to have their follower's tweets surveyed for specific 'warning' phrases and words. What would happen if they were notified of a troubled friend, put a lot of time and effort into helping them, and it didn't work?
Here's some other views...
"Maybe it's more about the people who are alone and keeping everything to themselves and only expressing things through social media and forums etc. people who haven't sought out professional help, who's family and friends might just assume they're going through a phase? Younger teenagers I'd assume. But I do think that if these people know apps like this are out there, it will potentially drive them to post more on twitter as a cry for help which might not be met, rather than dealing with it in other, more constructive ways."
- Laura Melrose, @El_Mel
"The launch of the Radar app, developed by the Samaritans, caused controversy within the online mental health community this week. The Samaritans is an organisation that people trust for their confidentiality and sensitivity, yet the app allows people to link to your Twitter name and be notified if the app's algorithm picks up on keywords suggesting you might possibly be suicidal. And what's wrong with that? Well, the fact that anyone can link to your name (lurker followers you've never interacted with, organisations trying to sell you products, nosy family members, people who troll or stalk you) with no checks whatsoever - and you will never know. You aren't told if someone links to your account. You aren't told if you trigger an alert. You aren't told if an email is being sent about you via the app to whoever is monitoring you. Looks to me like the Samaritans really don't "get" Twitter and the fact that you might have thousands of followers you don't really know, that it's not like Facebook where you have a relationship of some level with most of your friends. The level of fear and anxiety this created was huge; some people left Twitter immediately, others created new, locked accounts, others immediately avoided tweeting about their real feelings out of fear they were being monitored. Most disturbing about the incident is that although people can now "opt out" of Radar by direct messaging @samaritans, no one in the organisation, once so trusted by people with mental health problems, seems willing to say "sorry" for the distress caused."
- Charlotte Walker, @BiploarBlogger who blogs at http://purplepersuasion.wordpress.com/
Finally, it's only fair to include a statement from Samaritans themselves so you can make an informed opinion.
"Samaritans Radar update
We have been watching the debate unfold on Twitter about the Samaritans Radar app and wanted to respond to the concerns some Twitter users have raised about certain issues relating to safety and privacy.We understand that there are some people who use Twitter as a broadcast platform to followers they don’t know personally, and others who use Twitter to communicate with friends. Samaritans Radar is aimed particularly at Twitter users who are more likely to use Twitter to keep in touch with friends and people they know.
We want to reassure Twitter users that Samaritans does not receive alerts about people’s Tweets. The only people who will be able to see the alerts, and the tweets flagged in them, are followers who would have received these Tweets in their current feed already.
Having heard people’s feedback since launch, we would like to make clear that the app has a whitelist function. This can be used by organisations and we are now extending this to individuals who would not like their Tweets to appear in Samaritans Radar alerts.
It’s important to clarify that Samaritans Radar has been in development for well over a year and has been tested with several different user groups who have contributed to its creation, as have academic experts through their research. In developing the app we have rigorously checked the functionality and approach taken and believe that this app does not breach data protection legislation.
There are a vast number of Tweets sent out every day, which have the potential to be missed. The aim of the app is to look for potentially worrying tweets from people talking about their problems with the hope that their followers will respond to their Tweets - which are already public – and which otherwise may be missed. Those who sign up to the app don’t necessarily need to act on any of the alerts they receive, in the same way that people may not respond to a comment made in the physical world. However, we strongly believe people who have signed up to Samaritans Radar do truly want to be able to help their friends who may be struggling to cope.
At the heart of Samaritans philosophy is the belief that ordinary people listening to the problems and feelings of one another can make a big difference to people struggling to cope. People often tell the world how they feel on social media and we believe the true benefit of talking through your problems is only achieved when someone who cares is listening.
To add yourself to the Samaritans Radar whitelist, you can send a direct message on Twitter to @samaritans. We have enabled the function that allows anyone to direct message us on Twitter, however, if you're experiencing problems, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org"