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Australia gives Twitter 28 days to fix ‘toxicity and hate’

One in three complaints about online hate in Australia are about the Mask-owned platform, although it has far fewer users than other sites.

Australia’s internet safety watchdog has given Twitter 28 days to clean up “toxicity and hate” on its platform, threatening to fine the company if it fails to comply.

Twitter has become Australia’s most complained-about platform since Elon Musk, one of the world’s richest men and a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist”, took control of it last year.

The firm subsequently lifted a ban on a reported 62,000 accounts, including those linked to people making Nazi speech, and e-Safety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the platform now accounted for one in three complaints about online hate in Australia, despite TikTok, Facebook or Instagram has a lot less users than that.

Inman Grant, who once worked at Twitter, gave the company 28 days to show it was serious about addressing the problem or face a fine of 700,000 Australian dollars ($476,000) for each day it missed the deadline.

“Twitter seems to have dropped the ball on hate,” said Inman Grant, who worked on cybersecurity at the company after 17 years at Microsoft.

“We need accountability from these platforms and action to protect their users, and you can’t have accountability without transparency,” he said.

Since Musk took control of the company in October 2022, it has fired more than 80 percent of its employees worldwide, including many content moderators responsible for stopping abuse.

But the company’s new CEO Linda Iaccarino appears to be taking a different tack, saying last week that her vision for Twitter is to make it “a global city square for the world’s most accurate real-time information source and communication.”

‘Innocent racial slurs’

The e-Safety Commissioner’s claim comes as Australia prepares for a referendum this year on whether to recognize indigenous peoples in the constitution, fueling an increasingly heated debate about race.

Inman Grant said the watchdog was “far from alone in its concerns about increasing levels of toxicity and hate on Twitter, particularly targeting marginalized communities”.

Prominent Aboriginal broadcaster Stan Grant cited targeted abuse on Twitter when announcing a break from the media last month – “relentless racial slurs” – the commissioner noted.

Specialist broadcaster National Indigenous Television also said it was taking a break from Twitter because of “the racism and hatred we experience every day on this platform”, it said in a tweet last month.

Inman Grant said he had asked Twitter to explain its assessment of the impact of reinstating banned accounts, how it engaged with the online hate community and how it was enforcing its own policies to ban hateful behavior.

Australia has led the global drive to regulate social media platforms, and Inman Grant is not the first to publicly single out Twitter.

He wrote to Musk in November last year, expressing fears that deep layoffs would leave the company unable to meet Australian laws.

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