eSafety commissioner accuses Elon Musk of making X ‘more toxic and less safe’ for Australians

"Initial results show promising neuron spike detection," Elon Musk says of Neuralink's transplant.

"Initial results show promising neuron spike detection," Elon Musk says of Neuralink's transplant. Photo: Getty

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner has accused X of becoming “more toxic and less safe” since Elon Musk’s acquisition of the platform in October 2022, with staff cuts and changes in policy turning the platform into a haven for hate speech.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said X, formerly known as Twitter, has created a perfect storm by reinstating users who were previously banned for online hate.

“It’s almost inevitable that any social media platform will become more toxic and less safe for users if you combine significant reductions to safety and local public policy personnel with thousands of account reinstatement of previously banned users,” she said.

“A number of these reinstated users were previously banned for online hate.”

Musk has endorsed several conspiracy theories and welcomed back banned accounts belonging to people like Alex Jones, who was booted from the platform after denying the Sandy Hook school shooting and organising harassment against survivors and the parents of victims.

She highlighted the loss of staff in Australia meant communities disproportionately affected by online hate had little recourse.

“We know from that online abuse is frequently targeted at victims via services’ direct message features, with clear intent to cause harm,” Grant said.

“A recent eSafety study found that First Nations youth are three times more likely to experience hate speech online than their non-Indigenous counterparts.”

The platform has experienced a turbulent two years after being bought by Musk, as advertisers flee the platform because of non-existent content moderation and Musk’s embrace of conspiracy theories.

Staffing changes

The eSafety Commission fined X $610,500 in September for failing to explain how it met Australia’s online safety standards concerning child exploitation material on the platform.

Since taking over the company for $US44 billion in October 2022, Musk has reduced content moderation staff by 52 per cent and trust and safety staff in the Asia-Pacific region by 45 per cent.

In her report, Grant said X had informed the commission that there are no tools used to detect targeted harassment.

“I liken these attacks to someone trying to swat individual bees when they are engulfed by a killer swarm,” she said.

“It can feel quite overwhelming and be very damaging for the target.”

The report follows thousands of accounts critical of Musk being banned, before being reinstated without explanation.

The report also found the response time to user reports about messages and tweets had slowed considerably and links to websites “dedicated to harmful content” were not blocked.

“We also see from X Corp’s responses to our questions that the reduction in safety staff coincided with slower response times when users reported online hate to the platform,” Grant said.

“Response times to hateful tweets have slowed by 20 per cent since the acquisition and response times to hateful direct messages have slowed by 75 per cent, with users not receiving a response for up to 28 hours.”

Musk’s leadership of Twitter/X has seen the revenue in free fall after several controversies.

Multiple companies including IBM and Disney have pulled ads from Elon Musk’s X platform. Photo: AAP

Advertiser exodus

Musk and X filed a lawsuit in November against Media Matters after $110 million in advertising dollars left the platform because of the media watchdog’s reporting.

Media Matters highlighted how X was displaying advertising content from major companies like IBM and Disney alongside anti-semitic tweets.

Musk accused Media Matters of ‘‘engineering’’ the content by repeatedly refreshing the page.

X has been bleeding money since the takeover and Fidelity, a mutual fund that invests in the platform, valued it at $US12.5 billion at the start of the month.

One year after the acquisition, the number of total monthly users on the platform dropped 15 per cent alongside a 54 per cent drop in ad revenue before the mass exodus of major advertisers.

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.