Sydney: Australia’s eSafety commissioner has fined Elon Musk-run X 610,500 Australian dollars (over $380,000) for failing to disclose information about how it detects, removes and prevents child sexual abuse material. Google has also been issued a formal warning.
In a statement, eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the proliferation of online child sexual exploitation is a growing problem both in Australia and globally, and technology companies have a moral responsibility in protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse being stored, shared and perpetrated on their services.
“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,” Grant said late on Sunday.
X has 28 days to respond to or pay the eSafety office’s fine.
“Our first report featuring Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Skype, Snap, WhatsApp and Omegle uncovered serious shortfalls in how these companies were tackling this issue,” she stressed.
“This latest report also reveals similar gaps in how these five tech companies are dealing with the problem and how they are tackling the rise in sexual extortion and we need them all to do better,” Grant added.
eSafety found that two providers, Twitter/X and Google, did not comply with the notices given to them, with both companies failing to adequately respond to a number of questions in their respective notices.
Google has been issued a formal warning, notifying it of its failure to comply due to the company providing a number of generic responses to specific questions and providing aggregated information when asked questions about specific services.
“Google is not using its own technology to detect known child sexual exploitation videos on some of its services — Gmail, Chat, Messages,” the report mentioned.
Twitter/X’s non-compliance was found to be more serious with the company failing to provide any response to some questions, leaving some sections entirely blank.
The Musk-owned company also failed to adequately answer questions relating to the number of safety and public policy staff still employed at Twitter/X following the October 2022 acquisition and subsequent job cuts.
“If Twitter chooses not to pay the infringement notice, it is open to the Commissioner to take other action. eSafety has also published a statement, called a service provider notification, about the non-compliance by Twitter/X,” said Grant.
“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,” she added.
While YouTube, TikTok and Twitch are taking steps to detect child sexual exploitation in livestreams, Discord is not, saying it is ‘prohibitively expensive’. Twitter/X did not provide the information required.