Australia Fines X for Not Addressing Questions on Child Abuse Content
On Sunday 15 October, Australia’s eSafety commissioner fined X, formerly known as Twitter. The penalty is 610,500 AUD which is $380,000 US dollars for not disclosing how it polices child abuse content. X has 28 days to respond to or pay the fine.
Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said in a statement, “Twitter/X has stated publicly that tackling child sexual exploitation is the number 1 priority for the company, but it can’t just be empty talk, we need to see words backed up with tangible action.”
Australia’s Protection Against Online Child Abuse
Australia penalized X as per the Online Safety Act, introduced in 2021. The Law requires online service providers to report how they handle child abuse content on their platforms. Moreover, a civil penalty can be imposed on the companies failing to meet the reporting requirement.
A legal memo was sent to X in February by Australia’s eSafety office along with other tech companies like Google, TikTok, Twitch, and Discord. The notice included several serious questions for the companies to address regarding how they handle child exploitation content.
As per the eSafety commissioner, X didn’t answer many of the questions and left ‘some sections entirely blank.’ Furthermore, X was not the only social media platform the eSafety office took issue with. They said they found ‘serious shortfalls’ in how child exploitation content is policed in five other platforms they filed legal notices to.
The office also mentioned that Google was issued a formal warning for providing ‘generic responses to specific questions.’ Google regional director Lucinda Longcroft said in a statement, “Protecting children on our platforms is the most important work we do. Since our earliest days, we have invested heavily in the industrywide fight to stop the spread of child sexual abuse material.”
However, as per the commissioner, “ X received an official fine because its failure to comply with Australia’s reporting standards was more egregious.” For instance, the company did not provide adequate information on how long it takes to respond to child abuse reports. Also, how long it takes to distinguish child sexual exploitation on its platform, and how many safety and public policy employees it has.
Also, in December 2022, NBC News and CNBC collected internal records showing that 25 employees held tags related to ‘Trust and Safety’ out of roughly 1600 employees who were employed at that time.
X’s Response to the News
Last year, Musk stated that removing child exploitation is priority #1. But when the commissioner asked X how the service prevented child grooming. The company said that it was ‘not a service used by large numbers of young people.’ The company also added that their available anti-grooming technology was ‘not sufficiently capable or accurate for deployment on Twitter.’
The question remains if X will respond to these questions with proper answers or if he will choose to pay the fines imposed. As it is relatively a small fine given the multibillion-dollar business that the platform holds now that it charges X users a small fee.