Meta, Twitter and Other Social Media Giants in Hot Water Over Online Extremism

Meta, Twitter and Other Social Media Giants in Hot Water Over Online Extremism

The eSafety Commissioner has issued legal notices to social media operators Google, Meta, Twitter (now X), WhatsApp, Telegram, and Reddit over their role in spreading extreme content.

The commissioner is requiring the platforms to report how exactly they are limiting the spread of terrorist and violent extremist material, and how they are protecting Australians from such things.

The news comes shortly after the fifth anniversary of the tragic Christchurch massacre when an Australian man shot and killed 51 people in the New Zealand town. In the eSafety commissioner’s announcement of the legal notices, it makes explicit reference to the tragedy, along with the Halle synagogue shooting in Germany the same year, and more recently, the shooting in the New York State city of Buffalo. Each of these events involved radicalisation from social media platforms, not to say that there aren’t serious issues with our own culture that led to the Christchurch murderer’s extremism.

The eSafety notice also comes shortly after the release of the Tech Against Terrorism report, backed by the United Nations, which found Islamic State extremists comparing aspects of several popular AI chatbots.

“We remain concerned about how extremists weaponise technology like live-streaming, algorithms and recommender systems and other features to promote or share this hugely harmful material,” eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.

“We are also concerned by reports that terrorists and violent extremists are moving to capitalise on the emergence of generative AI and are experimenting with ways this new technology can be misused to cause harm.”

The legal notice has been issued under the transparency powers of the Online Safety Act. The social media companies are each required to answer a list of detailed questions on how they’re fighting extremism on their platforms.

The Commissioner added that eSafety is still receiving reports on perpetrator-produced material still being posted to social media, including from the Christchurch terror attack.

Referencing a 2022 OECD report on online extremist content, eSafety noted that Telegram is currently the number one platform for extremist material. YouTube, Twitter (now X), Facebook and Instagram also lead for extremist materials.

“It’s no coincidence we have chosen these companies to send notices to as there is evidence that their services are exploited by terrorists and violent extremists. We want to know why this is and what they are doing to tackle the issue,” Inman Grant added.

“Disappointingly, none of these companies have chosen to provide [online extremist information] through the existing voluntary framework – developed in conjunction with industry – provided by the OECD. This shows why regulation, and mandatory notices, are needed to truly understand the true scope of challenges, and opportunities.”

Telegram and Reddit will also be asked about what protections they have in place to detect child abuse material.

Each social media operator has 49 days to respond to the eSafety Commissioner.

Image: iStock

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.