Twitter restores suicide prevention feature after Reuters report

NEW YORK, Dec 24 (Reuters) – Twitter Inc has restored a feature that made suicide prevention hotlines and other safety resources available to users searching for specific content, after being pressured by some users and consumer protection groups for its removal was.

Reuters reported on Friday that the feature was taken down a few days ago, citing two people familiar with the matter who said the removal was ordered by the social media platform’s owner, Elon Musk.

After the story went public, Ella Irwin, head of trust and safety at Twitter, confirmed the removal, calling it temporary. “We’ve fixed and overhauled our prompts. They were only temporarily removed during this time,” Irwin said in an email to Reuters.

“We expect them to be ramped up again next week,” she said.

About 15 hours after the initial report, Musk, who initially didn’t respond to requests for comment, tweeted “Wrong, 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 specific topics. It listed contacts for aid 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 groups and Twitter users to raise concerns about the welfare of vulnerable users of the platform.

Partly due to pressure from consumer advocacy groups, internet services like Twitter, Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O), and Meta’s Facebook (META.O) have for years tried to refer users to well-known resource providers, like government hotlines, when they suspect someone might be in danger of harming themselves or cause harm to others.

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

She added: “We know that these prompts are useful in many cases and we just want to make sure they are working properly and are still relevant.”

Eirliani Abdul Rahman, who was a member of a recently disbanded Twitter content advisory group, said the disappearance of #ThereIsHelp was “extremely disturbing and deeply disturbing”.

Even if it was only temporarily removed to make room for improvement, “normally you would work on it in parallel, not remove it,” she said.

Reporting from 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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