Elon Musk orders removal of suicide prevention feature on Twitter, sources say.

The removal of the feature, known as #ThereIsHelp, has not previously been reported. It had shown at the top of specific searches the contacts of support organizations in many countries related to mental health, HIV, vaccines, child sexual exploitation, COVID-19, gender-based violence, natural disasters and freedom of expression.

Its removal could raise concerns about the welfare of vulnerable users on Twitter. Musk said impressions, or views, of harmful content have been declining since he took the reins in October, tweeting graphs showing a downward trend, though researchers and civil rights groups followed an increase in tweets containing racial slurs and other hate speech contents.

Twitter and Musk did not respond to requests for comment on the feature’s removal.

Washington-based AIDS United, which has been promoted in #ThereIsHelp, and iLaw, a Thai group cited for supporting free speech, both told Reuters on Friday that the feature’s disappearance came as a surprise to them.

AIDS United said a Web page linked to the Twitter feature was drawing about 70 views a day through Dec. 18. Since then, she has attracted a total of 14 views.

Damar Juniarto, executive director of Twitter partner Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network, tweeted Friday about the missing feature, saying the social media service’s “stupid actions” could lead to his organization abandoning it.

Reuters could not immediately determine why Musk would order the feature removed. Sources with knowledge of his decision declined to be named because they feared reprisals. One said millions of people had come across #ThereIsHelp messages.

Eirliani Abdul Rahman, who had served on a recently disbanded Twitter content advisory group, said the disappearance of #ThereIsHelp was “extremely disturbing and deeply disturbing.”

Although it was only temporarily removed to allow room for improvement, “usually you should work on it in parallel, not remove it,” she said.

Partly 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 public emergency numbers. , when they suspect that a person may be in danger.

Twitter had launched some prompts about five years ago, and some were available in more than 30 countries, according to company tweets. In one of its blog posts about the feature, Twitter said it was responsible for ensuring users can “access and receive help on our service when they need it most.”

At the time Musk bought the company, the feature was expanded to display information related to searches for natural disasters in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Alex Goldenberg, senior intelligence analyst at the nonprofit Network Contagion Research Institute, said guests who appeared in search results a few days ago were no longer visible Thursday.

He and his colleagues published research in August showing that monthly Twitter mentions of certain terms associated with self-harm have increased by more than 500% over the previous year or so, with younger users particularly at risk when seeing this type of content. .

“If this decision is emblematic of a change in policy that they are no longer taking these issues seriously, that is extraordinarily dangerous,” Goldenberg said. “This goes against Musk’s previous commitment to put children’s safety first.”

Musk said he wanted to fight child pornography on Twitter and criticized the previous owner’s handling of the problem. But it has removed many of the teams involved in handling potentially offensive material.

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