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Twitter could face fines in Australia over increase in online hate since Elon Musk takeover

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Australia's online safety watchdog has issued complaints against Twitter over spreading hate speech.

The eSafety commissioner said the social network is the most complained about platform in the past year.

The complaints have risen since Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition when he became CEO in October.

Read More: Music publishers sue Twitter for $250 million for copyright infringement

The surge in complaints about hate speech coincided with Musk's reduction of Twitter's staff by approximately 80 percent, including members of its trust and safety teams.

If Twitter fails to respond to the notice within 28 days, it could face a daily financial penalty of up to 700,000 AUD (nearly $475,685 USD) for as long as the breach persists.

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Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said: “Twitter appears to have dropped the ball on tackling hate.

“A third of all complaints about online hate reported to us are now happening on Twitter.

“ We are also aware of reports that the reinstatement of some of these previously banned accounts has emboldened extreme polarisers, peddlers of outrage and hate, including neo-Nazis both in Australia and overseas.”

Read More: Twitter head of content moderation quits after Elon Musk’s criticism

Elon Musk has championed free speech as a core principle since taking over Twitter.

However, researchers have found a tangible increase in hate speech on the platform due to Musk's emphasis on unfettered expression.

Data from Brookings Institute found the use of the N-word spiked nearly 500 percent within 12 hours of Musk's takeover.

Additionally, the frequency of tweets containing the term "Jew" increased fivefold in the subsequent week.

This trend has persisted, as a study from the University of Southern California revealed hateful users became even more vitriolic, and overall hate on the site escalated under Musk's leadership.

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Twitter's advertising revenue suffered a significant blow, with more than half of its top advertisers reportedly halting spending on the platform due in part to reduced content moderation staff and controversial policies.

This is not the first instance of Australia addressing online hate with regard to Twitter.

In February, the department requested information from Twitter, TikTok, Google YouTube, Twitch, and Discord.

It is about the measures they were implementing to combat "child sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual extortion, and the promotion of harmful content" facilitated by their algorithms.

The department is “currently assessing the responses” received before disclosing further information.

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