Twitter has ‘dropped the ball’ on tackling online hate

Australia's eSafety Commissioner is demanding Twitter explain what it is doing about online hate.

Australia's eSafety Commissioner is demanding Twitter explain what it is doing about online hate. Photo: AAP

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner says Twitter has “dropped the ball” on tackling online hate and has issued a legal notice to the social media giant demanding an explanation about what it is doing about the scourge.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant says there have been more complaints about online hate on Twitter in the past year than any other platform and complaints have spiked since Elon Musk’s takeover of the company in October.

“We are seeing a worrying surge in hate online,” Ms Inman Grant said in a statement on Thursday.

“Twitter appears to have dropped the ball on tackling hate.”

The rise in complaints also coincides with a slashing of Twitter’s global workforce from 8000 to 1500, including in its trust and safety teams, coupled with ending its public policy presence in Australia.

A general amnesty was announced by Mr Musk in November, which reportedly saw 62,000 banned or suspended users reinstated to the platform, including 75 accounts with more than one million followers.

Ms Inman Grant said Twitter’s policies prohibited hateful conduct on the platform but rising complaints to eSafety and reports of the toxic content remaining on the platform show that Twitter was probably not enforcing its own rules.

eSafety research showed nearly one in five Australians had experienced some form of online hate.

“This level of online abuse is already inexcusably high, but if you’re a First Nations Australian, you are disabled or identify as LGBTIQ+ you experience online hate at double the rate of the rest of the population,” Ms Inman Grant said.

A third of all complaints about online hate reported are about Twitter.

“We are also aware of reports that the reinstatement of some of these previously banned accounts has emboldened extreme polarisers, peddlers of outrage and hate, including neo-Nazis both in Australia and overseas,” Ms Inman Grant said.

Last month, US advocacy group GLAAD designated Twitter as the most hateful platform towards the LGBTQ+ community.

Research by the UK-based Centre for Countering Digital Hate demonstrated that slurs against African Americans showed up on Twitter an average of 1282 times a day before Mr Musk took over the platform. Afterwards, they more than doubled to an average of 3876 times a day.

The CCDH also found that those paying for a Twitter Blue Check seemed to enjoy a level of impunity when it came to the enforcement of Twitter’s rules governing online hate, compared to non-paying users and even had their Tweets boosted by the platform’s algorithms.

The Anti-Defamation League also found that anti-semitic posts referring to Jews or Judaism soared more than 61 per cent just two weeks after Mr Musk acquired the platform.

If Twitter fails to respond to the eSaftey’s request within 28 days, the company could face maximum financial penalties of nearly $700,000 a day for continuing breaches.


Topics: Twitter
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