Australian Muslim group lodges complaint against Twitter for failing to remove ‘hateful’ content

An advocacy group for Australian Muslims has lodged a complaint against Twitter with the Queensland Human Rights Commission, accusing the site of failing to take action against accounts that incite hatred on the platform.

The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (Aman) argues that as a publisher Twitter is responsible for content posted by a far-right account that has been cited in the manifesto of the extremist who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011.

The network says despite multiple requests, Twitter has refused to delete the account and replies to its posts that “vilify” Muslims. These include comments such as “Ramadan means killing infidels” and claims that the Qur’an should be referred to as the “terrorist handbook”.

Comments cited in the complaint refer to the Qur’an as “this satanic memoir” and to Islam as “the most violent and sexually perverse cult”.

The network has accused Twitter under Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act of inciting hatred as a publisher of third-party accounts, as well as discrimination for refusing to take action against hateful content.

Its complaint also says Twitter has engaged in indirect discrimination by failing to apply Australian standards to content on its platform.

The network says from July 2020 to July 2021 it submitted complaints to Twitter about 445 items, including 29 tweets it claims incited hatred and 416 comments and quotes on those tweets.

Twitter did not delete these comments and confirmed in writing in July 2021 that the accounts were assessed to be “consistent with their policies”, according to the network.

Rita Jabri Markwell, a lawyer for the network, said: “We were engaging with Twitter for over a year with really shocking examples. Pictures of Muslim men with guns being shoved into their mouths and pictures of Muslims depicted as monkeys and cavemen chasing people with knives.

“We want Twitter to take responsibility for their platform. It shouldn’t be left up to ordinary people to monitor their platform for them.”

Twitter’s hateful conduct policy says users may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity … sexual orientation … gender … [or] religious affiliation”.

It says the platform does “not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories”.

Australia’s high court found media companies could be liable for third-party comments on their social media posts in the landmark Dylan Voller case last year.

In 2021, the advocacy network successfully sought orders to remove 141 pieces of content published by the former senator Fraser Anning from Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter refused to take the content down until the court ruling.

The network also has a race discrimination and section 18C complaint on foot through the Australian Human Rights Commission against Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram.

“We only take these legal actions because it’s our only option at the moment. We would like to see the burden shifts from us to to a regulator, likely the eSafety Commissioner,” Jabri Markwell said.

The network wants Twitter to immediately remove accounts that serially tweet material that incite hatred against Muslims, including those that propagate “great replacement” and “counter jihad” theories.

The group is seeking compensation from Twitter “for the work involved in preparing their complaint, and for the hardship and trauma their failure to act caused to Aman’s staff and volunteers”.

“When that commentary is allowed online, it makes it normal and we see it being repeated in comment threads about the news,” Jabri Markwell said.

“As a Muslim … it immediately makes you feel like you’re on the outer and deeply disrespected.

“We are contributing, hardworking, caring members of this community and we deserve to be treated with respect.”

Twitter did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

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