The service uses an algorithm that digs through a user’s Twitter timeline looking for key phrases that could signal trouble like, “tired of being alone,” “hate myself,” “depressed,” “help me,” and “need someone to talk to.” If Samaritans detects these phrases, it alerts the user’s followers via email and offer suggestions and guidance about how to offer help.
Some may be concerned about privacy, but Samaritans says it is targeting the millennial generation, which has grown up sharing information online. Plus, Radar only searches public tweets. “It’s not looking over your shoulder, it’s not looking at anything that’s private, it’s just giving you the opportunity to see something and act on it,” Joe Ferns, executive director of policy, research, and development at Samaritans, told the BBC.
The algorithm isn’t perfect. According to the website, “It’s not good at sarcasm or jokes yet!” However, if a person receives a Samaritan message in error, they can give feedback to the developers. Users can sign up for Samaritans Radar by visiting the app’s website and linking it to a Twitter account.