GREENTECH

Australia fines X, formerly Twitter, for not answering questions on child abuse content

Elon Musk killed off the Twitter logo on July 24, 2023, replacing the world-recognized blue bird with a white X as the tycoon accelerates his efforts to transform the floundering social media giant. 
Chris Delmas | AFP | Getty Images
Australia’s eSafety commissioner on Sunday fined X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, 610,500 Australian dollars, over $380,000 U.S., for failing to properly disclose information about how it polices child abuse content.

“Twitter/X has stated publicly that tackling child sexual exploitation is the number 1 priority for the company, but it can’t just be empty talk, we need to see words backed up with tangible action,” Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said in a statement.

X has 28 days to respond to or pay the eSafety office’s fine.

It’s a relatively small price tag for the multibillion-dollar tech platform, but it represents another nail in the coffin for a company that has come under fire for its content moderation practices, especially after it was acquired and rebranded by Elon Musk.

Australia issued the fine under its Online Safety Act, introduced in 2021. The legislation requires online service providers to report how they crack down on child abuse content on their platforms. Under that law, companies can face civil penalties for failing to meet that reporting requirement.

In February, Australia’s eSafety office sent a legal memo to X, which was at that point Twitter, along with other tech companies like Google, TikTok, Twitch and Discord. The notices had specific questions for the companies to answer about how they handle child exploitation content.

According to the eSafety commissioner, X did not answer many of the questions and left “some sections entirely blank.”

X was not the only tech giant that the eSafety office took issue with. It said it found “serious shortfalls” in how child abuse content is policed on the five platforms it filed legal notices to.

The office also noted that Google has been issued “a formal warning” for giving “generic responses to specific questions.”

However, X received an official fine because its failure to comply with Australia’s reporting standards was more egregious, according to the commissioner.

For example, the company did not provide information on how long it takes to respond to child abuse reports, how it detects child sexual exploitation on its platform and how many safety and public policy employees it has.

In December 2022, NBC News and CNBC obtained internal records showing that about 25 employees held titles related to “Trust and Safety” out of roughly a total of 1,600 staff members who were still employed there at the time.

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