NEW YORK, Dec 24 (Reuters) – Twitter has restored a feature that promoted suicide prevention hotlines and other safety resources to users seeking certain content, after coming under pressure from some users and consumer safety groups to remove it.
Reuters reported on Friday that the feature had been removed several 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, Twitter’s head of trust and safety Ella Irwin confirmed the removal and called it temporary. “We’ve been fixing and redoing our queries.” They have only been removed temporarily while we do this,” Irwin said in an email to Reuters.
“We expect to have them 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 here.” 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. Listed are 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 elimination prompted some consumer safety groups and Twitter users to express concern for the well-being of the platform’s vulnerable users.
Partly due to pressure from consumer safety groups, Internet services including Twitter, Alphabet’s Google ( GOOGL.O ) and Meta’s Facebook ( META.O ) have for years tried to direct users to known resource providers such as government hotlines when they suspect someone may be in risk of harming himself or others.
In an email, Twitter’s Irwin said, “Google is doing really well with this in search results, and (we’re) actually mirroring some of their approach with the changes we’re making.”
She added: “We know these instructions are useful in many cases and we just want to make sure they work properly and are still relevant.”
Eirliani Abdul Rahman, who was on Twitter’s recently disbanded content advisory group, said the disappearance of #ThereIsHelp was “extremely disturbing and deeply disturbing”.
Even if it’s only temporarily removed to make room for improvements, “you would normally work on it in parallel, not remove it,” she said.
Reporting by Kenneth Lee in New York, Sheila Dang in Dallas, Paresh Dave in Auckland and Fanny Potkin in Singapore; Edited by Daniel Wallis
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