Australia: Elon Musk's X fined over child abuse content concerns

Monday, 16 October 2023 (11:02 IST)
An Australianinternet safety watchdog has fined Elon Musk's social media platform X 610,500 Australian dollars (€367,000) for not sharing information about its efforts to combat child sex abuse content.
X, previously known as Twitter, is the first online platform to be fined under Australia's Online Safety Act.
The eSafety Commissioner asked X, TikTok, Google, Discord and Twitch in February  for details about their measures for detecting and removing child sexual abuse material.
X was singled out for failing to provide any response to some questions, "leaving some sections entirely blank."
"If you have answers to questions, if you're actively implementing measures to tackle illegal content at scale, and globally, and if it's your stated priority, it's relatively straightforward to comply," Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said,.
Grant, who served as a public policy director for X until 2016, added, "The only reason I can see for failing to answer important questions about illegal content and conduct happening on platforms would be if you lack answers."
What did X say
Australian laws that came into effect in 2021 grant the commissioner the authority to compel internet companies to provide information about their online safety practices, with the threat of fines for noncompliance.
Musk had previously stated that "removing child exploitation is priority #1."
However the commissioner said when she asked X how it prevented child grooming on the platform the social media giant responded that it was "not a service used by large numbers of young people."
X also stated that the available anti-grooming technology was "not sufficiently capable or accurate for deployment on Twitter," according to the regulator. 
The social media platform failed to provide answers to various critical questions, including response times to reports of child abuse, measures taken to detect child abuse in livestreams, and the number of staff dedicated to content moderation, safety, and public policy.
X acknowledged that it had reduced its global workforce by 80% and had no public policy staff in Australia, in contrast to the two staff members it had before Musk's takeover.
In addition to the fine, the commission issued a warning to Alphabet's Google for not fully complying with its request for information concerning the handling of child abuse content.
Google was criticized for providing "generic" responses to some questions.
Google expressed disappointment at the warning but reiterated its commitment to collaborating with the eSafety Commissioner and the government to enhance online safety.

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