Australia’s online safety watchdog, the eSafety Commission, has imposed a fine of 610,500 Australian dollars ($385,000) on X, formerly known as Twitter. The commission, which prides itself as the world’s first government agency dedicated to keeping people safe online, took this action due to X’s failure to adequately explain its approach to addressing child sexual exploitation content.
X and Google Fail to Comply with Transparency Notices
The eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, revealed that both X and Google did not comply with the legal transparency notices issued by the commission earlier this year. These notices questioned the platforms about their efforts to combat child sexual exploitation, sexual extortion, and the livestreaming of child abuse. X, now under the ownership of Elon Musk, emerged as the worst offender, providing no responses to critical questions. Inman Grant expressed her dissatisfaction with X’s lack of transparency, particularly regarding how the trust and safety team has been impacted since Musk took over.
Possible Implications and X’s Response
X has the option to challenge the fine in the Australian Federal Court. However, if upheld, the court could impose a daily fine of up to AU$780,000 ($493,402) since March, when the commission first discovered X’s non-compliance with the transparency notice. In the meantime, the eSafety Commission plans to exert further pressure on X to demonstrate better transparency by issuing additional notices.
The eSafety Commission also issued a formal warning to Google for providing “generic responses to specific questions.” While the commission acknowledged that Google has developed technologies to proactively detect and remove child sexual abuse material, it underscored the importance of specific and informative responses.
In response to the commission’s actions, Lucinda Longcroft, Google’s regional director, emphasized the company’s dedication to protecting children on its platforms. Longcroft mentioned that Google has invested significant resources in the fight against the spread of child sexual abuse material and remains committed to this industry-wide effort.
The eSafety Commission’s fines and warnings to X and Google highlight the importance of transparency and accountability in addressing child exploitation content. As the world becomes increasingly connected through online platforms, it is crucial for social media companies to demonstrate their commitment to the safety of their users, especially vulnerable individuals such as children. The eSafety Commission’s ongoing efforts to ensure compliance and encourage transparency will hopefully lead to better practices by platforms like X and Google, ultimately creating a safer online environment for all.