Twitter Inc. has reinstated a feature that encourages suicide prevention hotlines for users searching certain content. This was after being under pressure from some users.
Reuters published Friday’s report that the feature had been removed a few days prior. They cited two sources familiar with the matter who claimed the move was ordered by Elon Musk, the new owner of the social media platform.
Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of safety and trust, confirmed that the story was removed and called it temporary.
Irwin wrote in an email that Twitter had “fixed relevance”, optimized the size of message prompts and corrected outdated prompts.” They are valuable and we didn’t intend to take them down forever.
Musk tweeted, “False it’s still there” 15 hours later after receiving the initial report. Musk also responded to Twitter critics by tweeting “Twitter does not prevent suicide.”
This feature is called #ThereIsHelp and places a banner near the top search results for specific topics. The feature lists contacts of support organizations in many countries, including those for mental health, HIV/AIDS, vaccinations, child sexual abuse, COVID-19, and gender-based violence.
The banner led to search results for domestic violence and suicide in several countries by Saturday.
It was unclear if the feature was restored for other types. Twitter previously stated that the feature did not appear for certain search terms, including “#HIV”.
Irwin didn’t immediately reply to my Saturday comment request.
Although Twitter prohibits self-harming posts, consumer safety groups criticize the company for permitting them to be posted.
Tweets featuring graphic images of people cutting off their arms were found under banners in searches for self-harm.
Some Twitter users and consumer safety organizations expressed concern about the well-being of those who used #ThereIsHelp after it disappeared.
Because of such pressure, many internet services, including Twitter, Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O), and Meta’s Facebook (META.O), have tried for years to point users to trusted resource providers to address safety concerns.
Twitter’s Irwin stated in an email that she sent Friday: “Google does great with these search results, and (we are) actually mirroring some of their approach with the modifications we are making.”
Her comments included, “Google offers highly relevant prompts for search terms. They are always up-to-date and optimized to work on both web and mobile.”
Eirliani Abdul Rahman was a member of a disbanded Twitter content advisory group. He said that the disappearance #ThereIsHelp was “extremely distressing” and that it is unusual to remove a feature in order to rebuild it.