Twitter restores suicide prevention feature after Reuters report

NEW YORK, Dec 24 (Reuters) – Twitter Inc reinstated a feature that promoted a suicide prevention hotline and other safety resources for users viewing certain content after coming under pressure from some users and consumer protection groups.

Reuters reported on Friday that the feature was removed 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 was published, Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, confirmed the removal and described it as temporary. “We are fixing and making improvements to our signals. They were temporarily removed while we were doing this,” Irwin said in an email to Reuters.

“We expect them to be back next week,” she said.

About 15 hours after the initial report, Musk, who initially did not respond to requests for comment, tweeted “False, it’s still there.” In response to criticism by 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. It listed contacts for support organizations in several countries related to mental health, HIV, vaccines, child sexual abuse, COVID-19, gender-based violence, natural disasters, and freedom of expression.

Its elimination prompted some consumer protection groups and Twitter users to express concern about the well-being of vulnerable users of the platform.

Partly due to pressure from consumer protection groups, Internet services including Twitter, Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) and Meta’s Facebook (META.O) have for years tried to direct users to well-known resource providers such as government hotlines. is attempted, when they suspect that someone may be at risk of harm to themselves or others.

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

“We know that these signals are useful in many cases and just want to make sure that they are working properly and remain relevant,” he added.

Erliani Abdul Rahman, who was on the recently disbanded Twitter Content Advisory Group, said the disappearance of #ThereIsHelp was “extremely disturbing and extremely troubling”.

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

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

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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