Twitter removes suicide prevention feature at Musk's request -- [UPDATED: it's back, with Musk claiming 'fake news']
Twitter has, without making an announcement, removed a feature that directed users towards suicide prevention services after searching for certain content.
The #ThereIsHelp feature was removed after Elon Musk issued an order to that effect. Sources familiar with the matter say that the removal is only temporary and that a revamped version will be launched in the future. But the social platform has been criticized not only for the timing -- Christmas is a tough time for many people -- but also for removing the existing support feature before having a replacement ready. [UPDATE -- the feature is now back. Despite the fact Twitter confirmed its removal, Musk used a series of tweets to denounce reports that it had temporarily been removed as 'fake news']
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As first reported by Reuters, Twitter removed the suicide prevention feature at some point in the last few days. Many other social platforms, including Facebook, will offer helpful links to support services if users conduct particular searches that could be thought of as concerning.
In a statement given to Reuters, Twitter's head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, said:
We have been fixing and revamping our prompts. They were just temporarily removed while we do that.
While Musk is insistent that fewer Twitter users are seeing harmful content since he took over the company, this is not in line with what third parties have found. Twitter has been strongly condemned for the removal of #ThereIsHelp, with Eirliani Abdul Rahman, a former member of a dissolved Twitter content advisory group, told the Guardian that the move was "extremely disconcerting and profoundly disturbing".
Echoing the thoughts of others, she expressed surprise at the approach Twitter was taking. She said that even if Twitter is launching an improved version of the service, "normally you would be working on it in parallel, not removing it".
The feature has now returned to Twitter, but despite a company employee confirming Reuter's initial report about its removal -- and users tests showing it to be the case -- Elon Musk entered Trump mode and tried to label it as fake news:
False, it is still there— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 24, 2022
In another tweet, seemingly missing the point on purpose, he went on to say that Twitter does not prevent suicide.
1. The message is actually still up. This is fake news.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 24, 2022
2. Twitter doesn’t prevent suicide.