Elon Musk insists Twitter suicide prevention feature hasn’t been removed

Twitter's head of trust and safety confirmed that the feature had been only removed temporarily for fixes

Elon Musk has insisted that a feature on Twitter that provided suicide prevention hotlines and other safety resources to potentially vulnerable users is not being removed, contrary to previous reports.

In response to the claims, Musk commented on a tweet from Reuters claiming the suicide prevention feature had been removed, “False, it is still there”. In a further tweet, he said that “1. This is fake news. 2. Twitter doesn’t prevent suicide.”

In addition, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, told Reuters that the feature was only temporarily removed so work could be done on it. “We have been fixing and revamping our prompts. They were just temporarily removed while we do that,” Irwin said in an email to Reuters. She added that they would be back next week.

The feature, known as #ThereIsHelp, showed contacts for support organisations when users searched for content related to mental health, HIV, vaccines, child sexual exploitation, COVID-19, gender-based violence, natural disasters and freedom of expression.

#ThereIsHelp was introduced about five years ago and had been available in over 30 countries, according to company tweets. It was part of a larger move by many social media platforms to respond to pressure from consumer safety groups. In one of its blog posts about the feature, Twitter had said it had a responsibility to ensure users could “access and receive support on our service when they need it most”.

Elon Musk
Credit: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images.

The notion that Musk had ordered the removal of #ThereIsHelp was met with criticism and concern. “If this decision is emblematic of a policy change that they no longer take these issues seriously, that’s extraordinarily dangerous,” said Alex Goldenberg, lead intelligence analyst at the non-profit Network Contagion Research Institute (via The Guardian). “It runs counter [to] Musk’s previous commitments to prioritise child safety.”

Musk had previously said that combatting child abuse imagery on the platform was “priority number one”, but in contrast, when he first took over the platform back in October, many of the content moderation staff were laid off. This was also attributed as the reason why racist tweets about footballers of colour ahead of the Qatar World Cup were reportedly not being taken down.

In other Twitter news, the platform just rolled out a feature allowing users to see how many people have viewed a tweet. The feature is designed to show “how much more alive Twitter is than it may seem”. According to Musk, over 90 per cent of Twitter users read a tweet without liking, commenting on or retweeting it.

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