How Search Engines Handle Suicide Queries

October 28, 2021

The suicide contagion effect posits that exposure to suicide- related content increases the likelihood of an individual engaging in suicidal behavior. Internet suicide-related queries correlate with suicide prevalence. However, suicide-related searches also lead people to access help resources. This article systematically evaluates the results returned from both general suicide terms and terms related to specific suicide means across three popular search engines—Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo— in both English and Spanish. We find that Bing and DuckDuckGo surface harmful content more often than Google. We assess whether search engines show suicide prevention hotline information, and find that 53% of English queries have this information, compared to 13% of Spanish queries. Looking across platforms, 55% of Google queries include hotline information, compared to 35% for Bing and 10% for DuckDuckGo. Specific suicide means queries are 20% more likely to surface harmful results on Bing and DuckDuckGo compared to general suicide term queries, with no difference on Google.

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