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Twitter restores suicide prevention feature after Reuters report

NEW YORK, Dec 24 (Reuters) – Twitter Inc reinstated a feature that promoted suicide prevention hotlines and other safety resources to users seeking out certain content, after facing pressure from some users and consumer safety groups to remove it.

Reuters reported on Friday that the feature was removed a few days ago, citing two people familiar with the matter, who 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, calling it temporary. “We have corrected and renewed our questions. They were only temporarily removed while we do so,” Irwin said in an email to Reuters.

“We expect to have them back next week,” she said.

About 15 hours after the initial report, Musk, who initially did not respond to requests for comment, tweeted, “False, it’s still there.” In response to criticism from Twitter users, he also tweeted “Twitter does not prevent suicide.”

The feature, known as #ThereIsHelp, placed a banner at the top of search results for certain topics. It listed 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.

Its elimination had led some consumer safety groups and Twitter users to express concerns about the well-being of vulnerable users of the platform.

Partly due to pressure from consumer safety groups, Internet services including Twitter, Alphabet’s Google ( GOOGL.O ) and Meta’s Facebook ( META.O ) have for years sought to direct users to well-known resource providers such as public hotlines when they suspect someone may be at risk to harm oneself or others.

In her email, Twitter’s Irwin said: “Google is doing very well with these in search results and (we’re) actually mirroring some of their approach with the changes we’re making.”

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

Eirliani Abdul Rahman, who had been on a recently disbanded content advisory group on Twitter, said the disappearance of #ThereIsHelp was “extremely disturbing and deeply disturbing”.

Even if it was only temporarily removed to make room for improvements, “normally you would work on it in parallel, not remove it,” she said.

Reporting by Kenneth Li in New York, Sheila Dang in Dallas, Paresh Dave in Oakland and Fanny Potkin in Singapore; Editing by Daniel Wallis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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