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Elon Musk’s X no longer has election misinformation reporting feature in Australia, say experts

Workers install lighting on an "X" sign atop the company headquarters, formerly known as Twitter, in downtown San Francisco
Workers install lighting on an "X" sign atop the company headquarters, formerly known as Twitter, in downtown San Francisco Copyright Noah Berger/AP Photo
Copyright Noah Berger/AP Photo
By Lauren Chadwick
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An Australian organisation says that the social media platform X no longer has an election misinformation reporting feature in the country just weeks before an important referendum.

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A feature allowing users to report misinformation on X (formerly known as Twitter) is no longer available in Australia, according to an organisation that monitors the impact of tech on democracy.

Reset.Tech Australia said there was “no channel” to report election misinformation on the social media platform.

“It is extremely concerning that Australians would lose the ability to report serious misinformation weeks away from a major referendum,” said Reset.Tech Australia in a letter to X’s managing director of Australia and New Zealand.

The change could breach the country’s misinformation code, the organisation said.

It comes ahead of an October 14 referendum in Australia on whether to alter the constitution to give a representative body to the First Peoples of Australia. This is the first referendum in the country since 1999.

The feature for reporting misinformation was launched in the US, South Korea, and Australia in 2021, and later expanded to Brazil, the Philippines and Spain.

In the European Union, there is still an option when reporting a post that allows a user to say it is “misleading about voting”. Users can also flag posts as abusive, sensitive, spam, or expressing intentions of self-harm.

European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova said on Tuesday that X was the platform “with the largest ratio of mis/disinformation posts”.

In the US, the categories for reporting a post include hate, abuse, violent speech, child safety, privacy, spam, suicide or self-harm, sensitive or disturbing media, deceptive identities, and violent or hateful entities.

Musk pulled out of the EU’s voluntary code on disinformation practices earlier this year. Fighting disinformation is a legal obligation as of last month due to the bloc’s Digital Services Act.

There have been concerns about rising hate speech and misinformation on the platform since the billionaire acquired it last year.

Research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has shown that X continued to host posts that were reported for hate speech.

According to Reuters, the Australian Electoral Commission, which oversees the referendum vote, has said that it could still report posts containing misinformation directly to the company, even after the feature was disabled.

Documents obtained by the Guardian Australia showed last week that the commission struggled to get X to remove posts that it said were inciting violence or disinformation.

X did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but rather sent an automatic reply: "busy now, check back later".

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