Twitter restores suicide prevention feature after Reuters report

Twitter restores suicide prevention feature after Reuters report
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NEW YORK, Dec 24 (Reuters) – Twitter Inc restored a feature promoting suicide prevention hotlines and other safety resources for users searching for certain content, after coming under pressure from some users and consumer safety groups over its elimination.

Reuters informed on friday that the feature was removed a few days ago, citing two people familiar with the matter, who said the social media platform’s owner, Elon Musk, ordered the removal.

After the story was published, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, confirmed the removal, calling it temporary. “We have been fixing and revamping our directions. They were only temporarily removed while we were doing that,” Irwin said in an email to Reuters.

“We hope to have them back next week,” he said.

About 15 hours after the initial report, Musk, who did not initially respond to requests for comment, tweeted “False, it’s still there.” In response to criticism from Twitter users, he also tweeted “Twitter doesn’t prevent suicide.”

The feature, known as #ThereIsHelp, placed a banner at the top of search results for certain topics. He listed contacts for support organizations in many countries related to mental health, HIV, vaccines, child sexual exploitation, COVID-19, gender-based violence, natural disasters, and freedom of expression.

Its removal had prompted some consumer safety groups and Twitter users to express concern for the well-being of vulnerable users of the platform.

In part due to pressure from consumer safety groups, Internet services such as Twitter, Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) and Meta’s Facebook (META.O) have tried for years to direct users to known resource providers, such as government hotlines, when they suspect someone may be in danger of harming themselves or others.

In his email, Twitter’s Irwin said: “Google does really well with these in their search results and (we) are actually reflecting some of their approach with the changes we’re making.”

He added: “We know these prompts are useful in many cases and we just want to make sure they work properly and remain relevant.”

Eirliani Abdul Rahman, who had been on a recently disbanded Twitter content advisory group, called the disappearance of #ThereIsHelp “extremely disconcerting and deeply disturbing.”

Even if it was only temporarily removed to make way for improvements, “you’d normally be working on it in parallel, not removing it,” he said.

Reporting by Kenneth Li in New York, Sheila Dang in Dallas, Paresh Dave in Oakland, and Fanny Potkin in Singapore; Edited by Daniel Wallis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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