Elon Musk reportedly ordered Twitter to remove a feature that promoted suicide prevention hotlines and other safety resources for users searching for specific content.
The removal of the feature known as #ThereIsHelp in recent days has not been previously reported. It had shown contacts with aid organizations in many countries related to mental health, HIV, vaccines, child sexual exploitation, Covid-19, gender-based violence, natural disasters and freedom of expression at the forefront of specific searches.
Its removal could contribute to concerns about the well-being of vulnerable users on Twitter. Musk has said impressions or views of harmful content have declined since taking office in October, and tweeted graphs showing a downward trend, although researchers and civil rights groups have noted an increase in tweets containing racial slurs and other hateful content.
Twitter and Musk did not respond to requests for comment about the feature’s removal.
Washington-based AIDS United, which was promoted in #ThereIsHelp, and iLaw, a Thai group credited for supporting freedom of expression, both told Reuters on Friday that the feature’s disappearance came as a surprise to them.
AIDS United said a website linked to the Twitter feature was attracting about 70 views a day as of December 18. Since then, she has received a total of 14 views.
Damar Juniarto, executive director at Twitter partner Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network, tweeted Friday about the missing feature, saying “stupid actions” by the social media service could prompt its organization to abandon it.
Why Musk would order the feature’s removal could not be determined immediately. Sources with knowledge of his decision declined to be named, fearing reprisals. One of them said millions of people encountered #ThereIsHelp messages.
Eirliani Abdul Rahman, who was a member of a recently disbanded Twitter content advisory group, said the disappearance of #ThereIsHelp was “extremely disturbing and deeply disturbing”.
Even if it was only temporarily removed to make room for improvement, “normally you would work on it in parallel, not remove it,” she said.
Partly due to pressure from consumer protection groups, internet services like Twitter, Google and Facebook have for years tried to direct users to well-known information providers like government hotlines if they suspect someone is in danger.
Twitter launched some prompts about five years ago, and some were available in over 30 countries, according to company tweets. In one of its blog posts about the feature, Twitter said it was responsible for ensuring users “can access our service and get support when they need it most.”
Just as Musk bought the company, the feature was expanded to show information related to natural disaster searches in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Alex Goldenberg, lead intelligence analyst at the nonprofit Network Contagion Research Institute, said prompts that appeared in search results a few days ago were no longer visible as of Thursday.
He and his colleagues released a study in August showing that monthly mentions of some self-harm-related terms on Twitter have increased by over 500 percent year-on-year, with younger users particularly at risk when viewing such content.
“If this decision is symbolic of a policy change, that they no longer take these issues seriously, that’s extraordinarily dangerous,” Goldenberg said. “This contradicts Musk’s previous commitment to prioritize child safety.”
Musk has said he wants to fight sexual imagery of children on Twitter and has criticized the previous owner’s handling of the problem. But he has dismissed large sections of the teams dealing with potentially objectionable material.
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/news/elon-musk-reportedly-orders-removal-of-twitter-suicide-prevention-feature-42241934.html Elon Musk is reportedly ordering the removal of Twitter’s suicide prevention feature