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Australian Commission Fines X $386K Over Child Sexual Exploitation Content

'What we are talking about here are serious crimes playing out on these platforms committed by predatory adults against innocent children,' said Commissioner Julie Inman Grant

The eSafety Commission of Australia has fined X $386,147 for failing to act upon previous warnings about abusive and exploitative content shared on the platform.

The watchdog group contends the social media site violated the Online Safety Act by not sufficiently addressing the publication of child exploitation content. The content allegedly includes extortion and live-streamed abuse.

We really can’t hope to have any accountability from the online industry in tackling this issue without meaningful transparency which is what these notices are designed to surface,” said eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant in a press release published on Oct. 16. “What we are talking about here are serious crimes playing out on these platforms committed by predatory adults against innocent children and the community expects every tech company to be taking meaningful action.”

The commission stated that its latest report found that both 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.”

According to the commission:

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. In other instances, Twitter/X provided a response that was otherwise incomplete and/or inaccurate. 

Twitter/X did not respond to a number of key questions including the time it takes the platform to respond to reports of child sexual exploitation; the measures it has in place to detect child sexual exploitation in livestreams; and the tools and technologies it uses to detect child sexual exploitation material.

The 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.

The social media site formerly known as Twitter received a warning from Inman Grant in November of 2022. Inman Grant told the Australian Senate that she had written to the platform’s CEO Elon Musk to ask that he ensure the company honors the agency’s takedown requests. The authority to make such requests of social media platforms was legally granted to the commission by the Online Safety Act provided the agency is asking for the removal of bullying content or image-based abuse.

Inman Grant worked for then-Twitter before taking her government position in 2016. At the time of her Senate testimony, X had laid off a significant number of its employees and the commissioner expressed concern that the company may be unable to meet its legal obligations.

“This is a complex operational ecosystem, so we need to know that we have people that we can interface here and who are looking after Australians’ concerns and providing those back to HQ,” Inman Grant said, per The Guardian. “The challenge of culling half of Twitter’s workforce is they had challenges keeping up with the volume before, what are they going to do now? … Either people are going to have to do two or three people’s jobs or things are going to inevitably fall between the cracks and that I think is a great concern.”

X has 28 days to pay the eSafety Commission fine or to request the infringement notice be withdrawn. 

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