The eSafety Commissioner has fined Elon Musk’s X platform $610,500 for failing to co-operate with a probe into anti-child abuse.
The independent regulator for online safety today released its second report under its transparency powers, which showed some of the world’s biggest tech companies were not living up to their responsibilities to tackle the proliferation of child sexual exploitation on their social media platforms.
In February, eSafety issued legal notices to Twitter (now X), Google, TikTok, Twitch and Discord under the Online Safety Act 2021, which required the companies to answer questions about actions taken to comply with online safety laws.
X was penalised for failing to provide responses, and providing incomplete and/or inaccurate responses.
It did not respond to key questions including those about reporting response times, and measures used to detect child exploitation materials.
It failed to adequately answer questions relating to the number of safety and public policy staff remaining following its October 2022 acquisition and subsequent job cuts.
Google was issued a formal warning after it provided generic and aggregated responses to specific questions.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said online child sexual exploitation was a growing problem both in Australia and globally, and technology companies had a moral responsibility to stop such content from being stored, shared and perpetrated on their services.
“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,” Ms Inman Grant said.
She said X and Google’s non-compliance was disappointing, especially as the questions related to the protection of children and the most egregious forms of online harm.
“X has stated publicly that tackling child sexual exploitation is the number one priority for the company, but it can’t just be empty talk, we need to see words backed up with tangible action.
“If X and Google can’t come up with answers to key questions about how they are tackling child sexual exploitation, they either don’t want to answer for how it might be perceived publicly. or they need better systems to scrutinise their own operations.
“Both scenarios are concerning to us and suggest they are not living up to their responsibilities and the expectations of the Australian community.”
The Commissioner’s first report in December last year followed the issuing of online safety notices to Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Skype, Snap, WhatsApp and Omegle. The notices uncovered similar shortfalls.
X has 28 days to pay the fine or request the fine’s withdrawal.