A legal action on Twitter is likely in Australia for failing to address online hate. The eSafety commissioner of Australia, Julie Inman Grant, has issued a legal notice to Twitter, demanding an explanation of the company’s actions to combat this pervasive issue.
In the notice, Grant, has strongly criticized Twitter for its inadequate response to online hate, describing the platform as “a bin fire.”
“We are seeing a worrying surge in hate online,” Grant said.
Failure to respond to the eSafety commissioner’s request within 28 days may result in substantial financial penalties for Twitter due to ongoing breaches.
This development follows a previous warning from Australian communications minister, stating that tougher measures would be considered if Twitter does not comply with online safety laws and takedown notices.
Legal Action on Twitter and online hate
“eSafety research shows that nearly 1 in 5 Australians have experienced some form of online hate,” Grant said in the notice.
“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.”
In February, Michelle Rowland, a member of the Australian Parliament, expressed concerns about the impact of Twitter’s departure from Australia following Elon Musk’s acquisition of the platform.
Rowland specifically raised concerns regarding government agencies and law enforcement’s ability to communicate with the company.
Twitter has received more complaints about online hate in the past year than any other platform, with a significant increase since Elon Musk took over in October, Grant revealed.
She expressed deep concerns about Twitter’s apparent failure to effectively address hate speech.
The surge in complaints coincides with a substantial reduction in Twitter’s global workforce, including its trust and safety teams, as well as the company’s withdrawal from public policy engagement in Australia.
Twitter and online hate: pre and post Musk
Following an amnesty granted by Elon Musk in November, approximately 62,000 banned or suspended users, including 75 accounts with over 1 million followers, were reinstated on the platform.
Commissioner Grant pointed out that the reinstatement of these previously banned accounts has had a disproportionate negative impact on Twitter’s overall toxicity.
Despite Twitter’s policies prohibiting hateful conduct, the increasing number of complaints and reports of toxic content remaining on the platform suggest a lack of effective enforcement.
In addition to domestic concerns, advocacy groups and research organizations have criticized Twitter.
GLAAD, a non-profit organization focused on LGBTQ advocacy and cultural change, recently designated Twitter as the most hateful platform towards the LGBTQ+ community.
The UK-based Centre for Countering Digital Hate reported a significant increase in racial slurs and antisemitic posts on the platform since Musk’s acquisition.
Twitter recently made changes to its Hateful Conduct Policy, and as a result, a specific protection for transgender individuals was removed.
Previously, Twitter’s policy explicitly stated that targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals was prohibited, alongside other forms of content that aimed to dehumanize or reinforce harmful stereotypes about protected categories.
However, according to the archived versions of the policy, the sentence addressing misgendering and deadnaming of transgender individuals was removed on April 8. The previous version of the policy included this protection, while the current version no longer contains that specific language.
“Twitter’s decision to covertly roll back its longtime policy is the latest example of just how unsafe the company is for users and advertisers alike,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
“The decision to roll back LGBTQ safety pulls Twitter even more out of step with TikTok, Pinterest, and Meta, which all maintain similar policies to protect their transgender users at a time when anti-transgender rhetoric online is leading to real world discrimination and violence.”
Previously, the eSafety commissioner issued similar notices to Twitter, Meta, and other platforms concerning their approaches to combatting online child abuse. The responses to these notices are currently being assessed, and further information will be provided in due course.