'We hate what you’ve done with the place – especially the hate' Australia tells Twitter

Issues official 'please explain why your moderation is rubbish' notice backed by big fines

The office of Australia's eSafety Commissioner has issued an official "please explain" to Twitter over its content moderation practices and whether it is enforcing its own policies against hateful conduct.

"eSafety received more complaints about online hate on Twitter in the past 12 months than any other platform and has received an increasing number of reports of serious online abuse since Elon Musk's takeover of the company in October, 2022," states a Thursday media release from the antipodean regulator, which linked the increased incidence of abuse to Twitter's swingeing sackings.

"Twitter appears to have dropped the ball on tackling hate," remarked eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant. "A third of all complaints about online hate reported to us are now happening on Twitter."

Australia's comms minister Michelle Rowland has previously revealed that her department's polite inquiries to Twitter on the matter produced no response – perhaps because the avian network is believed to have a very modest presence in Australia.

Twitter appears to have dropped the ball on tackling hate

The legal notice sent by the eSafety Commissioner therefore represents an escalation. The regulator is backed by the Online Safety Act, which requires service providers to follow "basic online safety expectations" designed to protect Australians from online abuse. The law also requires online services to respond to requests for information about how they're working to minimize harms to Australian users.

Failure to do so within 28 days can result in daily fines of around AU$700,000 ($450,000).

As Elon Musk's rationale for massive job cuts was cutting costs, he and Twitter will not want a multi-million-dollar bill from Australia.

Recent history suggests Musk can't just shrug off action down under. Australia's government introduced the world's first legislation requiring Google and Meta to pay local news publishers for linking to their content, then stared down the tech giants as they threatened to withdraw some services.

Coincidentally, on the same day as the eSafety Commissioner's warning to Twitter, opposition politicians – who in government played a role in the news payment scheme – reportedly raised the prospect of forcing developers of AI models to compensate local content creators for scraping their work. ®

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