Australian regulators give Twitter 28 days to sort out hate speech issues


Twitter

Twitter has been issued a legal notice by the Australian eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant. She is asking for an explanation of what the social media giant is doing to tackle a surge in online hate speech since Tesla CEO Elon Musk bought the platform. The notice requires Twitter to respond within 28 days or face a daily fine. This article will explore the details of the notice and the implications for Twitter.

hate speech

Background or context on the issue of hate speech on social media

Hate speech on social media has been linked to a global increase in violence and this include mass shootings, lynchings, and ethnic cleansing. The policies used to curb hate speech risk limiting free speech and are inconsistently enforced. Social media companies have developed policies that define hate speech solely with respect to the content of the message. Hate speech on social media is passed in different ways, not only within textual posts or user comments but also in (audio) visual forms. Due to the presence of anonymity in online media, the use of hate speech on social media is immensely prevalent.

Countries such as the United States grant social media companies broad powers in managing their content and enforcing hate speech rules. Others, including Germany, can force companies to remove posts within certain time periods. The issue of hate speech on social media is a global one, and the policies and laws surrounding it vary widely between countries. The role of corporations and the state in policing speech is a contentious issue, and the balance between free speech and hate speech is difficult to strike.

Background of the notice

The eSafety Commissioner received many complaints about online hate, with a third of all reports coming from Twitter. The increase in reports of hate speech comes as the company has slashed its staff that checks content. It also reinstated thousands of previously banned or suspended accounts, including 75 that had more than 1 million followers. Twitter, in January, dismissed workers whose job it was to monitor and address hate speech. Observers have noted a 105% surge in antisemitic tweets since Musk took over. They also pointed out that hateful comments from people who have paid for Twitter ads have increased by 50%.

Michelle Rowland, an Australian politician, expressed concern over the axing of the company’s Australian presence after Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform. She said that the govt did not rule out more regulation of the company. Twitter’s global workforce had been slashed under Musk from 8,000 employees to 1,500, with trust and safety teams shed, and Twitter had removed all public policy staff from Australia

The Legal Notice

Julie Inman Grant has sent a legal notice to Twitter with 36 detailed questions on how Twitter’s policies about hateful conduct are enforced. The notice requires Twitter to respond with factual and truthful responses to all questions. The company has only 28 days to respond or face a daily fine of up to 700,000 Australian dollars ($476,000) for every day of delay. Some of the questions include

  • How Twitter Identifies and removes hate speech
  • How it deals with repeat offenders
  • How it ensures that its algorithms do not amplify hate speech and many others 

The notice also asks Twitter to explain how it enforces its Hateful Conduct policy, which prohibits direct attacks on people based on race, ethnicity, gender, and other factors.

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Implications for Twitter

According to apnews, the latest notice is a huge issue for Twitter. The company has been criticized for its handling of online hate speech. With this new notice, it is clear that the govt is taking the issue very seriously. Twitter will need to respond to the notice within 28 days and provide factual and truthful responses to all questions. Failure to comply may lead to huge fines.

Twitter’s Hateful Conduct Policy

Twitter already has policies on hate speech. However, whether it is keeping to the words of the policy is another topic altogether. Let us take a look at what the Twitter Hateful Conduct Policy says.

Twitter’s Hateful Conduct policy bans direct attacks on people based on race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and other factors. The policy also prohibits targeting people or groups with content that references forms of violence or violent events. Also, the policy is against any content that intends to harass.

In addition, it prohibits the use of hateful images or symbols in profile images or headers. It also does not condone the use of hateful user names, display names, or profile bios. In this regard, hateful refers to showing hate towards a person, group, or protected category.

A Twitter blog post claims that the company enforces its Hateful Conduct policy. The report says that it reviews and takes action against reports of accounts targeting people or groups of people with any bad behaviours. Twitter claims that it takes action whether through Tweets or Direct MessagesA report from Mashable claims that Twitter has a tech that detects and removes hateful content from its platformTwitter has this Hateful Conduct Policy in its public space but it appears that Julie Inman Grant wants more. 

Twitters Response

At the moment, there is no official response from the social media giant regarding this issue. However, it is most likely that the company will release a statement in the coming days. Keep a tab with us and we will keep you informed with the details of this development.

Elon Musk Twitter

Experts Insights

Several experts and top users of Twitter had expressed their concerns with recent trends on Twitter. Stan Grant, a popular TV host announced that he is taking a break from Twitter last month citing targeted abuse on Twitter. Also, Specialist broadcaster National Indigenous Television also said it was taking a break from Twitter due to “the racism and hate that we experience every day on this platform”, it said in a tweet last month.

Editor’s Opinion

Since Elon Musk took over the helm of affairs at Twitter, some of his new policies have been met with criticism. Elon Musk claims to be an advocate of free speech. However, there is a very thin line between free speech and hate speech. This is where I think he is facing a lot of issues. Twitter has to tread carefully with this latest move by the Australian govt. It will be a good thing to amicably settle such issues so as not to attract similar moves from other nations of the world.

Final Words

The legal notice from the Australian eSafety Commissioner is a clear indication that the govt is taking the issue of online hate speech seriously. Twitter will need to respond to the notice within 28 days and provide factual and truthful responses to all questions. Failure to do so could result in significant fines. The notice is a significant development for Twitter and highlights the need for social media platforms to take responsibility for the content posted on their platforms. Twitter is yet to publicly say anything with regard to this issue. However, the company will likely release a statement in the coming days. 

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