Twitter ‘removes suicide prevention feature’ for unannounced ‘revamp’ | Science & Tech News

Twitter has reportedly removed a feature that promoted suicide prevention hotlines and similar safety resources for an unannounced revamp.

Citing two people familiar with the matter, Reuters news agency said the move was ordered by Elon Musk.

The #ThereIsHelp feature, which showed contacts for support groups and charities, when users searched for any relevant terms, is thought to have been taken down in the past few days.

It promoted the work of organisations in many countries, including those dedicated to support for mental health, natural disasters, coronavirus vaccines, and freedom of speech.

Twitter‘s head of safety, Ella Irwin, told Reuters that the feature had been “temporarily removed” while the firm is “fixing and revamping our prompts”.

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

“We know these prompts are useful in many cases and just want to make sure they are functioning properly and continue to be relevant.”

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FILE - Elon Musk arrives at the justice center in Wilmington, Del., Tuesday, July 13, 2021. According to a filing posted late Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk sold another $3.58 billion worth of Tesla stock during the week, but it wasn...t clear where the proceeds were being spent. Musk has sold nearly $23 billion worth of Tesla stock since April, with much of the money likely going to help fund his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
The feature’s removal was reportedly ordered by Elon Musk

‘Extremely disconcerting’

The feature’s sudden removal comes less than a fortnight after Musk – who is looking for someone to replace him as Twitter’s chief executive after two months in the role – dissolved the platform’s trust and safety council.

Three members of the council had already announced they were resigning, saying in a damning public statement that “contrary to claims by Elon Musk, the safety and wellbeing of Twitter’s users are on the decline”.

One former member, Eirliani Abdul Rahman, said the sudden disappearance of #ThereIsHelp was “extremely disconcerting and profoundly disturbing”.

He said such a feature would normally be kept online even if improvements were being carried out, rather than taken down altogether.

Some groups which were promoted by the feature said its removal was a surprise to them, with one – AIDS United – reporting a sharp decline in traffic to a web page that #ThereIsHelp had linked to.

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Musk has not commented on the feature’s removal.

The SpaceX and Tesla boss has spoken of his commitment to ensuring Twitter is a safe platform for users, and has committed specifically to combating child sexual abuse content.

But many of the thousands of job cuts he has enforced have impacted the platform’s relevant teams.