Twitter says it’s working on bringing back the #ThereIsHelp banner, a feature that pointed users to suicide prevention hotlines and other safety resources when searching for certain content. On Friday, Reuters reported that the company had removed the safety tool earlier in the week on orders from Elon Musk.
After the outlet published its story, Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, confirmed the removal but said it was temporary. “We have been fixing and revamping our prompts. They were just temporarily removed while we do that,” she told Reuters. “We expect to have them back up next week.”
On Saturday morning, Musk denied Twitter had ever removed the feature. “The message is actually still up. This is fake news,” Musk wrote on Twitter, adding, “Twitter doesn’t prevent suicide.” When Engadget tired searching for terms like “suicide” and “COVID-19” on Saturday afternoon, the banner did not appear.
Moving forward, Irwin told Reuters Twitter plans to adopt an approach used by Google. She said the company “does really well with these in their search results and [we] are actually mirroring some of their approach with the changes we are making.”
The disappearance of the #ThereIsHelp banner, even if it was only momentary, led to criticism of Twitter from some consumer safety advocates. Eirliani Abdul Rahman, a former member of the company’s recently dissolved Trust and Safety council, told Reuters she found the event “extremely disconcerting and profoundly disturbing.” Rahman also pointed out companies typically work on safety features “in parallel,” leaving existing ones in place before replacing them.
In the US, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or 800-273-8255.
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