Australia’s online safety watchdog, the eSafety Commission, has imposed a fine of 610,500 Australian dollars ($385,000) on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter. The commission, which aims to keep people safe online, issued legal transparency notices to X and other platforms earlier this year, raising concerns about their efforts to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. In response, X and Google failed to adequately address the commission’s inquiries, with X being the worst offender, providing no answers to important questions regarding their safety teams and prevention of illegal content.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant expressed disappointment in X’s lack of compliance with the transparency notices. According to Grant, X did not adequately respond to several questions, including the number of staff working on preventing harmful and illegal content since Elon Musk, the new owner, took over. Grant suggested that X’s failure to provide these basic details demonstrated a sense of defiance and questioned the company’s commitment to addressing the issue.
While X has the option to challenge the fine in the Australian Federal Court, there is a possibility of facing even higher penalties. The court could impose a fine of up to AU$780,000 ($493,402) per day since March when it was first found that X had not complied with the transparency notice. The eSafety Commission expressed its intention to continue pressuring X through further notices, emphasizing that the company cannot evade accountability.
Commissioner Grant highlighted the importance of transparency in addressing online safety issues, stating that X’s non-compliance was not acceptable. She affirmed that the commission would persistently hold X accountable by imposing fines and demanding greater transparency. Despite the company’s reluctance to cooperate, the eSafety Commission remains dedicated to protecting its citizens, particularly vulnerable individuals such as children.
In addition to X, the eSafety Commission issued a formal warning to Google for providing generic responses to specific questions regarding its efforts to combat child sexual abuse material. While Google claimed to have developed technologies for proactive detection and removal of such content, the commission sought more detailed information to ensure the effectiveness of these measures. Google’s regional director, Lucinda Longcroft, expressed the company’s dedication to child protection and emphasized their ongoing investment in combating the spread of child sexual abuse material.
The actions taken by the Australian eSafety Commission against X and Google send a clear message to social media platforms regarding the importance of addressing child sexual exploitation and abuse. By imposing fines and issuing warnings, the commission aims to raise the bar for transparency and prompt platforms to take more robust measures in protecting vulnerable users. As the world becomes increasingly connected, online safety remains a critical concern, and it is crucial for social media platforms to prioritize the well-being of their users, especially children, above all else.