Twitter remains in decline – and it seems things have become so bad that government intervention has sprouted up. Australia’s online safety regulator has sent a legal notice to Twitter, demanding the platform explain and outline its steps to combat hate speech or risk being fined.
The letter, from eSafety Commissioner Jule Inman Grant, highlights that “We are seeing a worrying surge in hate online” and that “Twitter appears to have dropped the ball on tackling hate”. She further adds that a third of all the complaints received by the eSafety Commission are from Twitter, with reports increasing since Musk took ownership of the company back in October 2022.
The letter gives Twitter 28 days to respond or face fines of AU$700,00 (about US $475,000). Inman Grant notes in the letter that increased reports of hate speech specifically began shortly after Musk slashed the social media giant’s moderation staff and reinstated thousands of previously banned accounts, including infamous influencer Andrew Tate.
The lack of moderation staff on the platform has led to an influx of hateful conduct and abuse. When you couple that with Musk’s less-than-ideal potential features, it’s hard to deny that the app is becoming less attractive – or just effectively unusable – for a lot of people.
The Glass Cliff
Hate speech surged once Musk took over, and while he has appointed a new CEO in the apparent hopes of stepping back, it seems like Musk can’t help but make clear who is really in charge.
When replacement CEO Linda Yaccarino was appointed, Musk made it clear that he would continue to head product design and new technology while Yaccarino would focus on business operations. We can’t help but wonder if Elon Musk has set the new CEO up to fail: a quick fix that ensures he can carry on spreading controversy (like recently calling the word ‘cis’ and ‘cisgender’ a slur that won’t be tolerated on Twitter) that someone else then has to deal with.
Yaccarino takes on the mess after Musk tanked more than half the social media platform’s value since purchasing it in November. Twitter has run through controversy after controversy since that point, and considering Musk was quick to stick a woman in charge of clean up and redirection, we could consider her being hired as a so-called ‘glass cliff hire’.
For the unaware, the ‘glass cliff’ describes a phenomenon where women and minorities are more likely than men to be appointed as leaders in times of crisis. Forbes lists Ellen Pao’s appointment at Reddit, Marry Barra at GM, and Carly Fiorina at HP as examples often cited when discussing glass cliffs. In this case, Musk appointed the new CEO and she immediately has to deal with the valid concern and potential fines from the Australian government.
This whole situation feels worryingly like it could be the beginning of a string of controversies in which we see Musk say or implement something awful, then sit back and watch Yaccarino pick up the pieces – or apologize on his behalf and then have to fix the damage done. Musk wants to have fun with his new toy – and he might have found a scapegoat to clean up after him when he makes a fuss in the playground.