Elon Musk debunked a Reuters report indicating that the new CEO had ordered the removal of the suicide prevention feature on the social media platform.
“Wrong, it’s still there,” Musk tweeted early Saturday morning.
Musk also responded directly to protégé Jane Manchun Wong’s tweet condemning the timing of the alleged removal of Twitter’s suicide prevention support feature over the Christmas period.
musk tweeted in reply:
“1. The message is still there. This is fake news. 2. Twitter does not prevent suicide.”
The Reuters report quoted two anonymous sources who said Musk had ordered the feature removed.
Reuters provided an update stating that the feature has been restored following its report.
After the story was published, Twitter’s Head of Trust and Safety, Ella Irwin, confirmed the removal, calling it temporary.
“We’ve fixed and renewed our claims,” Irwin wrote in an email to Reuters. “They’ve been temporarily removed while we’re doing this.
“We expect to bring it back next week.”
The removal of the item, known as #ThereIsHelp, was not previously reported. It showed at the top of specific searches contacts of support organizations in many countries related to mental health, HIV, vaccines, pedophilia, COVID-19, gender-based violence, natural disasters, and freedom of expression.
Aids United said the webpage it linked to on Twitter had attracted about 70 views a day as of December 18. Since then, it has attracted 14 views in total.
Reuters sources familiar with his decision declined to be named for fear of reprisals. One said millions of people have experienced #ThereIsHelp messages.
Irliani Abdurrahman, who was a member of a recently disbanded Twitter content advisory group, said the disappearance of #ThereIsHelp was “very disturbing, very disturbing”.
Even if it is removed only temporarily to make room for improvements, she said, “you usually work on it in parallel, not remove it.”
In part due to pressure from consumer safety groups, Internet services including Twitter, Google and Facebook have tried for years to direct users to well-known resource providers such as government hotlines when they suspect someone may be in danger.
Twitter made some claims about five years ago and some of them were available in more than 30 countries, according to the company’s tweets. In one of its blog posts about the feature, Twitter said it has a responsibility to ensure users can “access and receive our services when they need them most.”
Just as Musk bought the company, the feature has been expanded to display information related to natural disaster searches in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Claims that appeared in search results just days earlier were no longer visible by Thursday, said Alex Goldenberg, a senior intelligence analyst at the nonprofit Network Contagion Research Institute.
In August he and his colleagues published a study showing that monthly mentions on Twitter of some terms associated with self-harm increased by more than 500% over the previous year, with younger users particularly at risk when viewing such content.
“If this decision is symbolic of a policy change that no longer takes these issues seriously, then this is extremely dangerous,” Goldenberg said. “It runs counter to Musk’s previous commitments to prioritize children’s safety.”
Information from Reuters is used in this report.
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