Online Safety Watchdog Fines X for Failing to Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation Content

Online Safety Watchdog Fines X for Failing to Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation Content

Australia’s eSafety Commission, the world’s first government agency dedicated to online safety, announced on Monday that it has imposed a fine of 610,500 Australian dollars ($385,000) on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. The commission issued legal transparency notices earlier this year to X and other platforms, raising concerns about their efforts to combat the proliferation of child sexual exploitation, sexual extortion, and the livestreaming of child sexual abuse.

According to eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, X, along with Google, failed to comply with the notices by providing unsatisfactory answers to several questions. X, under its new owner Elon Musk, emerged as the worst offender, completely avoiding certain questions, including the number of staff dedicated to preventing harmful and illegal content since Musk’s takeover. Inman Grant perceives this as a defiant attitude on X’s part, stating, “If you’ve got a basic H.R. system or payroll, you’ll know how many people are on each team.”

After Musk acquired X in October of last year, he implemented cost-cutting measures that resulted in a significant reduction in workforce. However, this move seems to have compromised the platform’s ability to effectively address issues of child sexual exploitation and abuse. The eSafety Commission has raised concerns over X’s lack of transparency and responsiveness in addressing these serious offenses.

While X has the option to challenge the fine in the Australian Federal Court, it faces the risk of incurring a daily fine of up to AU$780,000 ($493,402) dating back to March when the commission first found the platform non-compliant with the transparency notice. The eSafety Commission intends to maintain the pressure on X through continued notices to encourage greater transparency. Inman Grant asserts, “They can keep stonewalling and we’ll keep fining them.”

Google’s Warning

The eSafety Commission also issued Google with a formal warning for providing “generic responses to specific questions.” Although Google’s regional director, Lucinda Longcroft, stated that the company has developed technologies to proactively detect, remove, and report child sexual abuse material, the warning suggests that Google’s responses did not adequately address the concerns raised by the commission.

Lucinda Longcroft emphasized that protecting children on their platforms is Google’s top priority. She added that the company has long invested in industrywide efforts to combat the spread of child sexual abuse material. It remains to be seen whether Google will face further consequences if it fails to demonstrate a more proactive and specific approach to addressing the commission’s concerns.

The eSafety Commission’s fines and warnings to X and Google highlight the growing seriousness of child sexual exploitation content on online platforms. The commission’s determination to hold these companies accountable demonstrates the urgent need for greater transparency and more robust efforts in combating the spread of harmful and illegal content, especially when it involves the abuse of minors. As online platforms continue to evolve, it is imperative that they prioritize the safety of their users, particularly vulnerable individuals, and actively engage in combating these heinous crimes.

Technology

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