‘Fixing relevance’: Twitter restores suicide prevention feature after report


Twitter has restored the suicide prevention feature, after coming under pressure from some users and consumer safety groups over its removal, according to the news agency Reuters.

Reuters reported 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 new owner Elon Musk.

However, Musk termed Reuter’s reports as false and even claimed that the feature is still there. He tweeted, “False, it is still there.”

After the publication of the story, Twitter’s head of trust and safety Ella Irwin confirmed the removal and called it temporary.

In an email to Reuters, Irwin said that Twitter was fixing relevance, optimizing the size of the message prompts, and correcting outdated prompts. “We know they are useful and our intent was not to have them down permanently.”

The new feature’s removal – known as #ThereIsHelp – was not previously reported.

It had shown at the top of specific searches 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, Reuters had reported.

Whether the feature had been restored for other categories was not clear. The feature was not appearing for some search queries that Twitter has previously said triggered it, such as “#HIV.”

Irwin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

The disappearance of #ThereIsHelp had led some consumer safety groups and Twitter users to express concerns about the well-being of vulnerable users of the platform.

In part due to pressure from such groups, internet services including Twitter, Alphabet’s Google and Meta’s Facebook have for years tried to direct users to well-known resource providers for safety issues, Reuters reported. 

In her email on Friday, 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, “Google provides highly relevant message prompts based on search terms, they are always current and are optimized appropriately for both mobile and web.”

Eirliani Abdul Rahman, who had been on a recently dissolved Twitter content advisory group, said the disappearance of #ThereIsHelp was “extremely disconcerting” and that completely removing a feature to revamp it was unusual.


(With Reuters inputs)

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