The last few weeks have been all about Elon Musk and Twitter. Of course, those who know Elon Musk know that he can be very controversial. Since taking over Twitter, Elon Musk has been the topic of discussion. His first action as Twitter CEO got tongues wagging. On his first day, he fired no less than four Twitter executives. By the first week, he had fired no less than 3500 Twitter employees. Elon Musk has also been bringing policies that users are not happy with. There is the $8 Twitter Blue idea that several users criticized. Now, there are reports that on the order of Elon Musk, Twitter has in the past few days removed a feature that recommends suicide prevention when users viewed certain content.
After the news hit the public, Twitter Trust and Safety Director Ella Irwin told the media… “We have been fixing and improving these prompts, and we are only temporarily removing this feature in the process.”
“A recovery is expected next week,” she added.
According to the latest news, this function has been restored at present. Despite restoring the feature, some believe that Twitter is up to no good. Many users have reasons to believe that Musk only restored the feature because of the public backlash.
Twitter suicide prevention feature – There Is Help
The feature, called #ThereIsHelp, displays contact details for many support groups related to mental health, HIV, vaccines, child sexual deprivation, COVID-19, gender based violence, natural disasters and free speech at the top of certain search results. However, there have been no media reports about the removal of this feature before.
There were concerns that removing the feature could have a bad effect on vulnerable groups who use Twitter. Musk said that since he took over Twitter last October, the number of harmful content displayed on the platform has continued to decline. He also shared a chart to illustrate this decline. But researchers and civil rights groups have seen an increase in tweets with racist and other hateful content.
Under pressure from consumer safety groups, Internet services including Twitter, Google and Facebook direct users to prominent resource providers such as government hotlines when they detect they may be in danger.
“Google’s search results do a good job of this, and we hope to emulate some of their practices with tweaks,” Twitter’s Irwin said in an email.
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She adds: “We know these tips can be useful in many situations, and we just want to make sure they work and continue to be relevant.”
Eirliani Abdul Rahman, who worked on the recently defunct Twitter content advisory group, is “extremely disturbed” by the disappearance of #ThereIsHelp.
Even if it’s just a temporary removal to improve a feature, “often it’s an improvement, not a deletion,” she said.
Many organizations promoted There Is Help
Washington-based AIDS relief organization AIDS United and Thai free speech support organization iLaw, both promoted in #ThereIsHelp, were surprised by the disappearance of the feature on Friday. As of Dec. 18, the page associated with the Twitter feature was attracting about 70 views a day, AIDS United said. But since then, the total has only been 14 views. Millions of people have seen the #ThereIsHelp message while using Twitter, people familiar with the matter said.
Twitter launched this feature about 5 years ago, some of which cover more than 30 countries. In a blog post about the feature, Twitter said it was their responsibility to ensure users had “access to our services and support” when they need it most.
Alex Goldenberg, the chief intelligence analyst at the nonprofit Network Contagion Research Institute, said hints that were visible in search results only a few days ago were by last Thursday gone. In his words, “I can’t see it anymore”.
A study he and his colleagues released in August shows that monthly mentions of words related to self-harm on Twitter have increased by more than 500% compared to a year ago. They claim that such content is especially dangerous for younger users.
“If this decision is a sign that they are no longer taking these issues seriously, it is very dangerous,” Goldenberg said. “It runs counter to Musk’s previous commitment to prioritizing children’s safety.”
Elon Musk leaves the team in charge of child protection with just one staff
Elon Musk has said he wants to crack down on child sexual abuse content on Twitter and criticize previous Twitter boards for poor handling of the issue. But he has made significant layoffs of the team that handles the content.
So, how can Elon Musk claim to be protecting children when a whole department to handle this has just one staff? It’s unclear exactly how many people were on the team before Elon Musk took over. According to a LinkedIn post from Wired magazine, there were at least four Singaporean employees who specialize in child safety. But they publicly said they had left in November.
The researchers say the importance of in-house child safety experts cannot be underestimated. Based in Singapore, the team enforces Twitter’s CSAM ban across the Asia-Pacific region. Currently, only one full-time employee remains on the team. The Asia-Pacific region has a population of about 4.3 billion, accounting for about 60% of the world’s total population.
The team in Singapore takes care of Twitter’s busiest markets, including Japan. According to Statista, Twitter has 59 million users in Japan, second only to the United States. However, the Singapore office has also been affected by global layoffs since Elon Musk took over the company.