Twitter’s new owner and CEO Elon Musk has allegedly ordered in the past few days that Twitter removes a feature that promoted suicide prevention hotlines and other safety resources to users looking up certain content, prompting concerns about the well-being of vulnerable users on Twitter, two people familiar with the matter confirmed.
Facing another potential backlash after the news broke of the removal of the feature known as #ThereIsHelp, Twitter’s head of trust and safety Ella Irwin has issued a statement convincing the users that during the process of fixing and revamping its prompts, Twitter has removed some features that are expected to be back up next week.
Neither Twitter nor Musk has responded to requests for comment on the removal of the feature.
The feature had shown in many countries at the top of specific searches contacts for support organizations related to gender-based violence, natural disasters, mental health, HIV, vaccines, COVID-19, child sexual exploitation, and freedom of expression.
Even though researchers and civil rights groups have tracked an increase in racial slurs and other hateful content in tweets since Musk took over the social media platform in October, he said that impressions of harmful content are declining and has even tweeted graphs showing the downward trend.
The disappearance of the suicide prevention feature was an extremely disconcerting and profoundly disturbing surprise for the iLaw, a Thai group mentioned for freedom of expression support, and the Washington-based AIDS United, which was promoted in #ThereIsHelp.
They noted that while a webpage that the Twitter feature linked to attracted about 70 views a day until Dec. 18, it has since drawn 14 views in total. Although there’s no apparent reason for Musk to order the feature’s removal, sources familiar with his said millions of people had encountered #ThereIsHelp messages.
Internet services, including Twitter, have for years tried – in part due to pressure from consumer safety groups – to direct users to well-known resource providers, such as government hotlines when they suspect someone may be in danger.