Statement on removal of X's signatory status
Reset.Tech Australia welcomes the decision of the Complaints Sub-Committee to revoke the signatory status of X, formerly known as Twitter, from the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation (ACPDM).
Reset.Tech Australia thanks the independent Complaints Sub-Committee and DIGI, acting as the Code’s administrator, for their professionalism throughout the complaints process.
On 26th September 2023, Reset.Tech observed the apparent removal of a public user reporting mechanism on X’s services. Australians lost the ability to report misinformation about politics mere weeks before a referendum. Reset.Tech Australia attempted to contact X on the 27th September. After receiving no response, Reset.Tech Australia escalated the matter to DIGI on 3rd October 2023.
The removal of the public user reporting feature coincided with a high volume of serious falsehoods about Australia’s electoral process, as revealed in Reset.Tech Australia research and noted in public comments by the Australian Electoral Commissioner, Tom Rogers.
Critically – this matter was not about individual decisions on content and speech, but rather, a compliance problem created by X’s lack of interest in maintaining user reporting flows.
X’s engagement with regulatory processes globally is commensurate with the powers and penalties available from those processes. The contrast between their refusal to engage with Australian frameworks and their participation in the transparency requirements for Europe’s new Digital Services Act is stark. X has demonstrated contempt for Australia’s systems of tech governance and indeed a total disinterest in electoral integrity.
As debate persists in Australia on how best to manage the scaling risks and harms from Big Tech, let this case study be a lesson that our regulators urgently need powers to demand information and levy commercially meaningful fines when necessary.
Alice Dawkins, Executive Director: “While we are pleased that the Complaints Sub-Committee agreed with our argument, this is a sombre occasion. Removal of signatory status is a last-resort measure and not something to be celebrated – it represents a breakdown in engagement. We urgently need legislation in Australia that empowers timely and impactful regulatory action when tech companies fail on their promises.”
Dr Rys Farthing, Director of Research & Policy: “The outcome today places Australia where Europe was in 2019, when it was broadly recognised that the voluntary disinformation code had failed. In came the Digital Services Act, which is now producing transparency measures Australia can only dream of. The next steps, of comprehensive legislation that pragmatically reckons with the limits of co-regulation, are abundantly clear.”
Artwork attribution: Jamillah Knowles / Better Images of AI / Data People / CC-BY 4.0