Twitter Inc. has reinstated a feature that advertises suicide prevention hotlines and other safety options to users seeking up specific material following pressure from certain users and consumer safety organizations over its removal.
According to two people with knowledge of the situation, the function’s removal was mandated by the social media platform’s new owner, Elon Musk. Reuters reported on Friday that the feature had been removed a few days prior.
Twitter’s head of trust and safety Ella Irwin verified the removal after the article was published and described it as temporary.
Twitter was “fixing relevance, optimizing the size of the message prompts and correcting outdated prompts,” Irwin said in an email to Reuters. “We know they are useful and our intent was not to have them down permanently.”
Musk, who first ignored calls for comment, tweeted “False, it is still there” about 15 hours after the initial allegation. He also posted, “Twitter doesn’t prevent suicide,” in response to Twitter users’ criticism.
The #ThereIsHelp feature displays a banner at the top of search results for particular topics. There are phone numbers given for support groups for mental health, HIV, vaccinations, child sexual exploitation, COVID-19, gender-based violence, natural catastrophes, and freedom of expression in many different nations.
On Saturday, the banner reappeared in international searches for domestic violence and suicide using abbreviations like “shtwt,” which stands for “self-harm Twitter.”
It was however, unclear if the feature had been reinstated for other categories. Some search terms that Twitter had previously claimed to have activated the functionality—such as “#HIV”—were not returning the feature.
An inquiry for comment on Saturday went unanswered by Irwin.
Although consumer safety organizations have criticized the firm for allowing tweets that they claim violate the guidelines, Twitter prohibits users from promoting self-harm.
On searches for self-harm on Saturday, tweets with graphic images of people cutting their arms were displayed beneath banners.
Some consumer safety organizations and Twitter users expressed concern for the safety of the network’s most vulnerable users after #ThereIsHelp vanished from the platform.
Internet firms like Twitter, Alphabet’s Google, and Meta’s Facebook have sought for years to point users to reputable resource providers for safety issues, in part as a result of pressure from these organizations.
Twitter’s Irwin wrote on Friday in an email, “Google does really well with these in their search results and (we) are actually mirroring some of their approach with the changes we are making.”
She added, “Google provides highly relevant message prompts based on search terms, they are always current and are optimized appropriately for both mobile and web.”
The absence of #ThereIsHelp was “extremely disconcerting,” according to Eirliani Abdul Rahman, a member of a recently disbanded Twitter content advisory board, and fully eliminating a feature to revamp it was, unusual.
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