The renowned social media network formerly known as Twitter, now referred to as X, has been issued a hefty fine of 610,500 Australian dollars (equivocal to US $385,000), by Australia’s online safety watchdog. The regulatory body has made this move in response to X’s failure to comprehensively detail its strategy to combat child sexual exploitation online.
In an ambitious venture to ensure online security, Australia’s eSafety Commission is the first governmental body globally to dedicate itself to the safeguarding of individuals on the internet. Earlier in the year, the commission made use of its authority to issue legal transparency notices to multiple platforms, X included, challenging their approach to the rampant spread of child sexual exploitation, sexual blackmail, and the horrifying phenomena of live-streamed child sexual abuse.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant expressed dissatisfaction with X and Google’s responses to the notices, voicing concerns over their lacklustre answers to several critical queries. Grant particularly noted with disappointment the inadequate response from X, owned by serial entrepreneur Elon Musk. Notable among her concerns was the absence of information regarding the current staffing status of X’s trust and safety team, tasked with curtailing harmful and unlawful content.
Underlining the seriousness of this omission, and the importance of a robust human resources structure, Grant alluded to an apparent defiance on X’s part. Despite reaching out for further comment, X remains silent, causing further intrigue and unease.
Musk finalised his acquisition of X in the latter part of the previous year, opting to scale down dramatically, which included cutting a considerable number of jobs. While X has the option of contesting the fine in the Australian Federal Court, such a course could prove even more costly. The court is in a position to impose a daily penalty of up to AU$780,000 ($493,402) dating back to the initial discovery of X’s non-compliance in March.
Despite these hurdles, Inman Grant emphasised that eSafety Commission would persist in their drive to enforce transparency on X, and continued violations would result in further penalties. Google has also received a formal caution from the commission for its vague replies to pointed inquiries. Lucinda Longcroft, Google’s regional director, however, insisted upon the company’s commitment to child safety, highlighting their investment in measures to detect, eliminate and report materials advocating child sexual abuse.