Australia’s cyber watchdog has issued a warning to Twitter, which is owned by billionaire Elon Musk, over concerns regarding its handling of online hate. The country’s online safety commissioner revealed that Twitter has become the most complained-about platform, prompting the regulator to demand an explanation from the social media company. Despite having fewer users compared to platforms like TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram, Twitter received one-third of all complaints related to online hate. Failure to respond to the regulator within 28 days could result in potential fines of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per day for ongoing breaches.
Julie Inman Grant, the online safety commissioner, expressed disappointment in Twitter’s apparent failure to address the issue of hate speech effectively. Inman Grant also highlighted concerns over the reinstatement of previously banned accounts, suggesting that it has emboldened extremists, including neo-Nazis in Australia and abroad. The demand for explanation from Twitter is part of a broader campaign by the regulator to hold social media platforms accountable for their content moderation practices.
Twitter, which was purchased by Elon Musk for $44 billion last year, did not provide a statement regarding the watchdog’s announcement when approached by the BBC for comment. This development follows the resignation of Ella Irwin, Twitter’s second head of trust and safety under Musk’s ownership. While the reasons for her departure were not publicly disclosed, it occurred shortly after Musk criticized a content moderation decision made by the company. The head of trust and safety plays a crucial role in content moderation, an area that has drawn increased attention since Musk assumed control of Twitter.
Since acquiring Twitter, Musk has made significant changes to the company, including cutting about 75% of its workforce, including teams responsible for monitoring and addressing abusive content. Additionally, he has implemented modifications to the company’s verification process. These actions have led to a substantial exodus of advertisers from the platform. The resignation of Irwin coincided with Twitter’s withdrawal from the European Union’s voluntary code aimed at combating disinformation.
Recently, Linda Yaccarino, the former head of advertising at NBCUniversal, assumed the role of Twitter’s chief executive, replacing Musk. Yaccarino brings with her extensive experience in navigating the challenges posed by technology companies and driving industry-wide discussions on issues such as data gaps resulting from the migration of audiences online.
The demand for accountability from Twitter by Australia’s cyber watchdog reflects growing concerns globally about the prevalence of online hate speech and the responsibility of social media platforms in combating it. As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, platforms like Twitter face increasing scrutiny and pressure to ensure a safer and more responsible online environment.