Twitter Removes Suicide Prevention Feature, Says Fixing And Revamping Prompts

Twitter Removes Suicide Prevention Feature, Says Fixing And Revamping Prompts

Twitter removed its feature of prompting suicide hotlines and other safety measures for users searching a certain content, reported Reuters citing two people familiar with the matter. They added that the removal has been done after CEO Elon Musk’s order. 

Replying to Reuter’s query on the same, Twitter head of trust and safety Ella Irwin informed, “We have been fixing and revamping our prompts. They were just temporarily removed while we do that.” 

 She added, “We expect to have them back up next week.” 

The feature, known as #ThereIsHelp, shows at the top of specific searches contacts for support organisations in many countries related to mental health, HIV, vaccines, child sexual exploitation, COVID-19, gender-based violence, natural disasters and freedom of expression. 

The removal of the feature has led to concerns about the well-being of vulnerable users on Twitter. 

The development comes amid Musk claiming that impressions, or views, of harmful content, are declining since he took over in October and tweeted graphs showing a downward trend, while researchers and civil rights groups said that there was an increase in tweets with racial slurs and other hateful content. 

In her email to Reuters, 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 are making.” 

She added, “We know these prompts are useful in many cases and just want to make sure they are functioning properly and continue to be relevant.” 

Reacting to the removal, Eirliani Abdul Rahman, who had been on a recently dissolved Twitter content advisory group, said the elimination of #ThereIsHelp was “extremely disconcerting and profoundly disturbing.” 

She said, “Normally you would be working on it in parallel, not removing.” 

Several groups like the Washington-based AIDS United, which was promoted in #ThereIsHelp, and iLaw, a Thai group mentioned for freedom of expression support, expressed their shock over the disappearance of the feature. 

AIDS United said a webpage that the Twitter feature linked to attracted about 70 views a day until Dec. 18. Since then, it has drawn 14 views in total, the report said. 

ALSO READ: Tweets Are Read Nearly 100 Times More Than They’re Liked, Elon Musk Says As View Count Feature Rolls Out

Damar Juniarto, executive director at Twitter partner Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network, took to Twitter and termed the step as “stupid actions” adding that this act by the social media service could lead his organisation to abandon it. 

Alex Goldenberg, the lead intelligence analyst at the non-profit Network Contagion Research Institute, said prompts that had shown in search results just days ago were no longer visible by Thursday. 

He and colleagues in August published a study that said that monthly mentions of some terms associated with self-harm on Twitter increased by over 500% from about the year before, with younger users particularly at risk when seeing such content. 

“If this decision is emblematic of a policy change that they no longer take these issues seriously, that’s extraordinarily dangerous,” Goldenberg said. “It runs counter Musk’s previous commitments to prioritize child safety.” 

Earlier, Musk said he wants to combat child sexual abuse content on Twitter and criticised the previous leadership for not handling the issue properly. However, he has cut large portions of the teams involved in dealing with potentially objectionable material, reported Reuters. 

Twitter launched some prompts around five years ago and some had been available in over 30 countries, according to company tweets. In one of its blog posts about the feature, Twitter said it had a responsibility to ensure users could “access and receive support on our service when they need it most.” 

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