Australia's eSafety Commissioner has issued a legal notice to Twitter seeking answers about what the social media giant is doing to tackle online hate on the platform.

Local authorities set their eyes on Twitter, the social media platform recently acquired by Elon Musk, as the site experiences a surge in online hate.

Over the past 12 months, the eSafety Commissioner reportedly received more complaints about online hate on Twitter than on any other platform, and has pointed out an increased number of "serious online abuse" reports since Elon Musk’s controversial takeover of the company in October 2022.

"Twitter appears to have dropped the ball on tackling hate," said eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, who worked as Twitter’s Director of Public Policy, Australia and SE Asia, between 2014 and 2016.

"A third of all reports into our office of online hate are coming from Twitter, it's been a huge surge since October 22 when Elon Musk took over," Grant told the ABC.

"Twitter has always been fiery in terms of discourse, but it's turned into an absolute bin fire."

Grant suggested there is a particularly high risk of online hate for First Nations Australians, those who identify as LGBTQI+ and those living with a disability.

While eSafety research shows near 1 in 5 Australians have experienced "some form of online hate", Grant suggests the above minority groups experience online hate at "double the rate" of the rest of the population.

"This is serving to suppress speech and create a very unsafe place for Australians, and we want to get to the bottom of it," she said.

"We want to see them take responsibility and take action."

Twitter has been making headlines for a range of questionable changes since Musk's $64.6 billion (US$44 billion) acquisition, including a drastic cut to the social media giant's workforce and a reinstatement of problematic, once-banned accounts.

Over 60,000 accounts which were banned or suspended under the previous owners have been restored under Musk's authority – a decision which Grant suggests risks toxicity on the platform.

"I think it's safe to say that these are the worst of the worst accounts," said Grant.

In what Musk deemed a "general amnesty", countless problematic accounts were restored under a pretense of "transparency" and whether or not they had "broken the law" or engaged in "egregious spam".

Restored users included several accounts promoting vaccine misinformation, numerous far-right accounts, and 75 accounts which have more than a million followers, drawing particular concern from Grant for their "outsized impact on the toxicity of the platform".

"It's very, very hard to be permanently banned from Twitter," said Grant.

"You have to be the most egregious, repetitive spewers of hate to contravene the Twitter rules multiple times and be banned.

"What we want to know is who are these accounts? Are they given special dispensation? Are they able to Tweet without immunity, particularly if they're paying for a Twitter Blue subscription?"

Less staff, less oversight?

eSafety reports the rise in complaints coincides with the social media giant eviscerating its global workforce – as staff was recently cut from 8,000 employees down to 1,500.

"The trust and safety team, the team that deals with content moderation, was the first to go," said Grant.

Furthermore, the eSafety Commissioner highlighted that Twitter has eliminated its public policy presence in Australia – a role which the commissioner herself stepped into for Twitter in 2014.

"That's a really critical role. They were the people that interface with law enforcement, with governments, with regulators."

Grant also said changes to Twitter algorithms, have made people feel like they see more toxicity, and more "coarse discourse".

"Without lifting the hood and using these transparency powers, we really don't know what's happening," Grant told the ABC.

"This is where we're trying to get to the bottom of things."

Twitter has 28 days to comply with the "please explain" notice, or face fines of nearly $700,000 a day for ongoing breaches.