Australia’s online safety watchdog, the eSafety Commission, has recently fined X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, AUD 610,500 ($385,000) for its failure to provide a comprehensive explanation of how it addresses child sexual exploitation content. As the world’s first government agency dedicated to ensuring online safety, the eSafety Commission issued legal transparency notices earlier this year to X and other platforms, inquiring about their measures to combat the proliferation of child sexual abuse, sexual extortion, and the live-streaming of such content.
Commissioner Julie Inman Grant stated that both X and Google did not comply with these notices as they failed to sufficiently respond to several key questions. However, X was found to be the worst offender, with no answers provided to certain queries, including the number of employees on the trust and safety team dedicated to preventing harmful and illegal content since Elon Musk took over as the new owner. Inman Grant expressed her concern about this lack of transparency, suggesting that there may be a sense of defiance within the social media platform.
Following Elon Musk’s acquisition of X in October of the previous year, the company underwent significant downsizing and cost-cutting measures. A considerable number of jobs were eliminated in the process. While this move might have been part of Musk’s strategic plan to streamline operations and improve profitability, it also raised questions about the platform’s commitment to effectively combating child sexual exploitation.
While X has the option to challenge the imposed fine in the Australian Federal Court, the court has the authority to penalize the platform with fines of up to AUD 780,000 ($493,402) per day starting from March, when the eSafety Commission initially discovered X’s non-compliance with the transparency notice. Inman Grant emphasized that the commission would continue to exert pressure on X through additional notices, with the intention of compelling the platform to enhance its transparency and commitment to online safety. She made it clear that the commission would not hesitate to impose further fines as a means of incentivizing compliance.
In addition to the fine imposed on X, the eSafety Commission issued a formal warning to Google for providing “generic responses to specific questions.” While Google regional director Lucinda Longcroft stated that the company has developed various proactive technologies to detect, remove, and report child sexual abuse material, the warning sent a message that more detailed and specific responses are expected. Longcroft underlined the significance of protecting children on Google platforms and highlighted the company’s continuous efforts to combat the spread of child sexual abuse material.
X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, has been held accountable for its failure to address child sexual exploitation content and provide adequate transparency. The fine imposed by the eSafety Commission serves as a reminder to online platforms of the importance of prioritizing the safety of users, especially vulnerable individuals such as children. As the commission continues to pressure X and Google to improve transparency and response strategies, it remains to be seen how these platforms will adapt and enhance their efforts to combat such harmful content.