Twitter’s swipe at Australia’s inquiry into toxic material on social media

Ashleigh GleesonNCA NewsWire
Twitter has taken a swipe at Australia’s latest social media inquiry, announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Camera IconTwitter has taken a swipe at Australia’s latest social media inquiry, announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Twitter has argued that being anonymous lets its online users “express themselves freely and safely”, while also accusing a federal inquiry into toxic material on social media of being focused on “headlines”.

Two months after Scott Morrison revealed the government would draft world-first laws to compel social media giants to identify anonymous trolls in defamation cases, Twitter has hit back in a submission to the inquiry, which the Prime Minister announced in November.

Twitter has argued that people are able to mute or block harassment and noted that in the last six months of 2020 it deployed 143 million anti-spam challenges to accounts causing trouble.

Twitter said there was a “common misconception” that trust began with knowing who a person really was.

“But trust isn’t that simple,” it wrote.

The social media giant said research had shown people trusted an account based on multiple factors, including whether it was a bot or real person.

“Twitter works to prevent spam and fake accounts from harassing other people on the service both at the sign-up stage so they won’t be able to join, and by removing accounts that have been proven to cause trouble.” it wrote.

PRIME MINISTER PRESSER
Camera IconPrime Minister Scott Morrison announced the social media inquiry in November last year. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

It said the inquiry was investigating “broad and complex” issues that couldn’t be properly explored in the allocated time, taking a clear swipe at the government.

“There’s a desire to deal with the companies and issues that are most commonly in the headlines today, without sufficient consideration of how this will impact the future of the internet or where different policy objectives might be creating contradictions,” it wrote.

Twitter asked for the inquiry to wait until the Online Safety Act 2021 (which is due to take effect in January) was properly implemented.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, also argued in a submission that the federal government had introduced 14 new digital platforms regulations in the last three years.

“Policymakers should be alive to the risk of overlapping, duplicative or inconsistent rules in different laws,” it wrote.

“Indeed, many of the online safety-related laws and regulations that have already been passed by parliament are yet to be implemented.”

In announcing the new legislation to unmask trolls last year, the Prime Minister said anonymous bullying had to stop.

“Social media can too often be a cowards’ palace, where the anonymous can bully, harass and ruin lives without consequence,” he said.

“We would not accept these faceless attacks in a school, at home, in the office, or on the street.

“And we must not stand for it online, on our devices and in our homes.

“We cannot allow social media platforms to provide a shield for anonymous trolls to destroy reputations and lives.”

The inquiry is examining the potential impacts on people’s mental health and the extent to which algorithms used by social media platforms permit or increase exposure to toxic material.

It is also examining the effectiveness of protections in place for children.

Originally published as Twitter’s swipe at Australia’s inquiry into toxic material on social media

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