X has been kicked off an Australian regulatory code after the social media group removed any way for users to report politics-related misinformation on its platform.
The social media company, formerly known as Twitter, has been removed as a signatory of the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation (ACPDM) by tech lobby group DIGI following a decision by an independent complaints subcommittee.
The subcommittee found that X had committed a “serious breach” of the code by providing no avenue to report misinformation and disinformation in relation to politics throughout the recent referendum on the Voice to Parliament.
The ACPDM was developed in late 2019 following the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Digital Platforms inquiry.
It is a voluntary code outlining how tech firms will combat disinformation and misinformation on their platforms, with signatories agreeing to provide annual transparency reports, publish and implement policies and provide users with a way to report content.
The code is run by tech lobby group DIGI, with signatories including Adobe, Apple, Meta, Google, Microsoft and TikTok.
X had previously launched a tool allowing users to report misinformation in relation to elections in Australia in 2021, but this was removed in September this year.
Reset Australia brought a complaint about the removal of this function in October, and this was escalated to the code’s independent complaints subcommittee.
The subcommittee determined that X had committed a “serious breach of the code” and “refused to cooperate” with DIGI on the matter.
“In the subcommittee’s opinion, no correction made now could remedy the breach in relation to this complaint, the ACPDM code, and the wider community,” the subcommittee said.
A meeting was held between the subcommittee, DIGI and Reset Australia earlier this month. X was given notice to attend and said it would have representatives there, but they withdrew giving less than two hours’ notice, citing ill health.
The company provided no written submission, and never lodged a defence.
The subcommittee also sent questions to the tech giant but received no response or explanation.
“Repeated attempts to engage with X by DIGI and Reset Australia have failed to elicit any response to the complaint,” the ruling said.
“The subcommittee has had no contact with X in relation to this matter.”
The subcommittee said this refusal by X to engage in the process at all was “disappointing and irresponsible”.
X has now been removed as a signatory of the voluntary misinformation code.
“X has demonstrated contempt for Australia’s systems of tech governance and indeed a total disinterest in electoral integrity,” Reset Australia said in a statement.
“Removal of signatory status is a last-resort measure and not something to be celebrated – it represents a breakdown in engagement,” Reset Australia executive director Alice Dawkins said.
“We urgently need legislation in Australia that empowers timely and impactful regulatory action when tech companies fail on their promises.”
Greens Senator David Shoebridge said far stronger enforcement powers are needed against the tech giants.
“This whack with a wet lettuce leaf shows the need for beefed up digital regulation with swift and commercially serious penalties for breaches,” Shoebridge posted on X.
Under the reign of new CEO Elon Musk, X appears to have disengaged entirely with Australia’s regulatory process.
X was recently fined $600,000 for failing to answers questions from the eSafety Commissioner on the prevention of child abuse materials on its platform. The company has failed to pay the fine in the allotted time.
And in June the eSafety Commissioner issued a legal notice to X seeking a response on its actions to prevent hate speech on the platform. This came following reports that in the last year the Commissioner received more complaints about online hate on X than any other platform, and that there had been an increase in the number of “serious online abuse” reports since Musk’s takeover in October last year.
X has also been criticised for failing to address the huge amount of misinformation on its platform surrounding the Israel-Hamas war.
The government has released draft legislation which would give ACMA the power to force social media companies to adhere to industry codes of conduct, such as the ACPDM. Plans to introduce the bill to Parliament this year have now been delayed.