Reuters reported Friday that the number was no longer being promoted as part of a wider help feature to Twitter users seeking certain content. Two sources told Reuters the removal of the feature was ordered by Twitter CEO Elon Musk.
The hotline number was part of a “There Is Help” (now “Help is Available”) feature on the social media platform, which pops up in a banner at the top of search results for certain topics. It listed contacts for support organizations in many countries linked to mental and physical health issues, such as vaccines, COVID-19, gender-based violence, natural disasters and suicidal ideation.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the restored feature covered all of the same issues.
Musk slammed the Reuters story on Saturday as “fake news,” insisting the help message is “actually still up.” He also insisted: “Twitter doesn’t prevent suicide.”
But Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, confirmed the removal of the safety feature to Reuters — though said it was temporary.
“We have been fixing and revamping our prompts,” Irwin reportedly noted in an email to Reuters. “They were just temporarily removed while we do that.”
Unlike Musk, Irwin said of the prompts: “We know they are useful.”
The service appeared again after consumer and health advocates complained, Reuters reported.
Eirliani Abdul Rahman, a former member of a recently dissolved Twitter content advisory group, told Reuters the disappearance of the feature was “extremely disconcerting and profoundly disturbing” even if the removal was part of preparation for improvements.
“Normally, you would be working on it in parallel, not removing it,” she added.
Jane Manchun Wong, a software developer and Twitter user, said it was the “worst time” to remove the hotline when many people are struggling during the holidays.
Twitter “could’ve kept the old prompt and replaced it with a new one when it’s ready,” she wrote in a post that apparently has since been deleted — along with her entire Twitter account.