SYDNEY — Australia’s internet safety watchdog on Thursday (June 22) threatened to fine Twitter for failing to tackle online abuse, saying Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s takeover had coincided with a spike in “toxicity and hate”.
E-safety commissioner Julie Inman Grant — a former Twitter employee — said the platform was now responsible for one-in-three complaints about online hate speech reported in Australia.
Ms Inman Grant said Twitter had 28 days to show it was serious about tackling the problem or face fines of A$700,000 (S$939,000) for every day it missed the deadline.
She said Twitter must come back with a series of concrete steps showing “what it is doing to prevent online hate on its platform and enforce its own rules”.
“We need accountability from these platforms and action to protect their users,” she said.
“And you cannot have accountability without transparency, and that’s what legal notices like this one are designed to achieve.”
Since Mr Musk bought the platform in October 2022, he has slashed more than 80 per cent of the global workforce, including many of the content moderators responsible for stamping out abuse.
In November, Mr Musk declared a broad amnesty that allowed tens of thousands of suspended or banned accounts to rejoin the platform.
“Twitter appears to have dropped the ball on tackling hate,” said Ms Inman Grant, who worked on cyber safety at the company after 17 years at Microsoft.
She said the watchdog was “far from being alone in its concern about increasing levels of toxicity and hate on Twitter, particularly targeting marginalised communities”.
“We are also concerned by numerous reports of content remaining widely accessible that is likely in breach of Twitter’s own terms of service.”
Australia has spearheaded the global drive to regulate social media platforms, and it is not the first time that Ms Inman Grant has publicly singled out Twitter.
She wrote to Mr Musk in November, expressing fears that deep staff cuts would leave the company unable to meet Australian laws.
Indigenous journalist Stan Grant, one of Australia’s most respected media personalities, said in May he had lodged a complaint with Twitter about the “relentless racial filth” he had copped while using the platform.
Major music publishers in the United States launched a legal suit targeting Twitter this month, arguing that the platform had failed to stop “rampant” copyright infringement.
And a European Union commissioner also in June accused Twitter of choosing “confrontation”, after it pulled out of a voluntary digital code of practice.