Samaritans Radar: an open letter to Nick Pickles at Twitter

Adrian Short · 4 November 2014

To Nick Pickles (@nickpickles), Twitter UK’s head of policy

Hi Nick,

When I first heard about Samaritans Radar it sounded like an interesting idea. Then I thought about how it might be used to hurt vulnerable people as well as to help them.

But what really changed my mind about it was reading the #SamaritansRadar hashtag.

There was a buzz about the app but not a good one. Almost everyone there was saying that they were worried about it.

Some people were saying that they were going to have to be much more careful about what they say on Twitter and how they say it.

Some were saying that they were going to lock their accounts.

And others were just saying goodbye. Samaritans Radar meant they no longer felt safe on Twitter at all.

No-one doubts that the Samaritans started this project with good intentions. But since launch it’s become very clear that it has had bad results. This isn’t one or two noisy critics with axes to grind. It’s a widespread and vehement rejection of the app from the very people it’s designed to help: people talking on Twitter about their emotional and mental health problems. Samaritans Radar is making Twitter a less safe space for them. It’s separating them from their friends and breaking up communities of support online.

So while the app has the potential to be abused by trolls and stalkers, its continued operation is actually abusive in itself. When people you’re trying to help are telling you to stop it’s time to stop.

If a personal account was causing this much anguish on Twitter it would have been banned days ago. So what makes the Samaritans exempt from acting like considerate members of the Twitter community?

Twitter has the power to stop all this right now. By pulling the plug on the Samaritans’ access to the Twitter API you can shut Samaritans Radar down, prevent further harm, let the situation stabilise, and let everyone concerned work out a way forward.

I addressed the petition to shut down Samaritans Radar to you because the Samaritans aren’t listening. Over 800 people have signed so far and that number is only going one way. Many of their comments below the petition talking about people’s lives have been affected by Samaritans Radar are incredibly sad. I hope that you are listening to these people and that you’re ready to take action to help.

There’s nothing to be gained by anyone by prolonging people’s misery any further. It’s time to put the safety and privacy of people on Twitter first. Please shut down Samaritans Radar today.

Kind regards,

Adrian Short (@adrianshort)