Australia’s online safety watchdog has taken action against social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, for its failure to adequately address child sexual exploitation content. This move comes as part of the country’s eSafety Commission’s efforts to ensure online safety and combat the increasing instances of child abuse material, sexual extortion, and livestreaming of child sexual abuse.
The eSafety Commission has imposed a fine of AUD 610,500 ($385,000) on X for its lack of transparency and failure to provide satisfactory responses to the commission’s legal transparency notices. X, under its new owner Elon Musk, received the harshest penalty as it failed to answer crucial questions, such as the number of staff dedicated to preventing harmful and illegal content since the change in ownership. eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant remarked that this demonstrated a level of defiance on X’s part and highlighted the company’s lack of accountability.
Challenges and Potential Consequences
Although X has the option to challenge the fine in the Australian Federal Court, it faces the risk of incurring additional fines of up to AUD 780,000 ($493,402) per day since the commission’s initial finding of non-compliance in March. Inman Grant has indicated the commission’s intention to maintain pressure on X through further notices, urging the company to enhance transparency and take responsibility for its platform’s content. This suggests that X may face continuous fines if it continues to disregard the commission’s concerns.
In addition to X, the eSafety Commission issued a formal warning to Google for its generic responses to specific questions, indicating a lack of satisfactory engagement. Google’s regional director, Lucinda Longcroft, emphasized the company’s investment in developing technologies to proactively detect, remove, and report child sexual abuse material. Longcroft stated that protecting children on their platforms is the company’s top priority and underscored their ongoing commitment to combatting the spread of such content.
Australia’s eSafety Commission has taken a significant step in holding social media platforms accountable for their handling of child exploitation content. By imposing fines on X and issuing warnings to Google, the commission aims to encourage greater transparency and dedication to preventing the proliferation of harmful and illegal material online. This move serves as a reminder to all platforms that protecting their users, particularly children, is of utmost importance. As the eSafety Commission continues to exert pressure, it remains to be seen how companies like X and Google will respond and adapt their approaches to ensure a safer online environment.