Twitter reinstated a feature that had been promoting suicide prevention hotlines and other safety resources to users searching for specific content, after coming under pressure from users and consumer safety groups.
The feature, known as #ThereIsHelp, placed a banner above search results for certain topics, listing contacts for support organizations in several countries related to mental health, HIV, vaccines, pedophilia, Covid-19, and gender-based violence. natural disasters and freedom of expression.
Reuters said on Friday that the feature was removed this week. Citing two people familiar with the matter, the report said the removal was ordered by the owner of the social media platform, Elon Musk.
After the story was published, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, confirmed the removal but said it was temporary.
“We have fixed and renewed our claims. They have only been temporarily removed while we are doing this,” Irwin said in an email to Reuters.
Musk then denied removing the feature, calling the Reuters report “fake news”.
However, the report emerged at the start of the Christmas holidays, a fraught period for many, sparking widespread concern. Reported by Reuters, the anonymous sources said millions have encountered #ThereIsHelp messages on Twitter.
Erliani Abdurrahman, a member of a recently disbanded Twitter content advisory group, told Reuters that the disappearance of #ThereIsHelp was “very disturbing, very concerning” even if the removal was implemented to make room for improvements.
“This is the worst time of year to remove suicide prevention,” he said. books Jin Manchun Wong, software developer and Twitter user. “Instead of leaving a time gap without the suicide prevention feature to renew, they could have kept the old router and replaced it with a new one when it was ready.”
Early Saturday, Musk answeredtweeted: “1. The message is still in fact. This is fake news. 2. Twitter does not prevent suicide.”
Online services including Twitter, Google and Facebook have tried for years to direct users to resources such as government hotlines if they suspect a user may be at risk.
Irwin said Twitter intends to adopt an approach used by Google. She said this platform “does really well with those in their search results, and [we] They actually reverse some of their approach with the changes we’re making.
“We know these prompts are useful in a lot of cases and we just want to make sure they work properly and stay relevant.”
Musk said views of harmful content on Twitter have fallen since he took office in October. Then he said, “almost no one” on Twitter was working on child safety.
“I immediately made it a top priority,” he added.
But Musk has scaled back the number of teams involved in dealing with difficult material and observers said self-harm content is booming, despite the de facto ban.
Twitter launched the warning messages about five years ago. Some of them were available in more than 30 countries, according to the company’s tweets. In a blog post, Twitter said it is responsible for ensuring that users can “access and receive our services when they need them most.”
Alex Goldenberg, a senior intelligence analyst at the nonprofit Network Contagion Research Institute, said his group published a study in August — before Musk took control of Twitter — showing that monthly mentions on Twitter of terms related to self-harm increased by more than 500% year over year, Especially among young users.
“If this decision is symbolic of a change in policy that no longer takes these issues seriously, then this is extremely dangerous,” Goldenberg told Reuters. “It runs counter to Musk’s previous commitments to prioritize children’s safety.”
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