Australian regulator fines X, formerly Twitter, over failure to cooperate with inquiry into its policies on removing child abuse material
E-safety commissioner Julie Inman Grant, who issued the A$610,500 ($386,000, £317,360) penalty, said none of the 13 major internet companies it investigated were living up to the voluntary safety principles they had pledged to support.
Alphabet’s Google was given a formal warning for giving generic responses to some of the inquiry’s specific questions, while X was given an infringement notice.
X has 28 days to either pay the fine or provide responses to questions about what it is doing to crack down on child abuse material on the platform.
X owner Elon Musk said last November that “removing child exploitation is priority #1”.
But the eSafety Commission criticised the company’s “empty talk”.
In the commission’s inquiry the company failed to “provide any response to some questions, leaving some sections entirely blank”.
The firm failed to respond to 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 commission said.
The platform no longer has a presence in Australia, after confirming to the regulator that it had culled 80 percent of its staff since Musk took over, including firing its two former Australian public policy staff.
Last month Australian researchers criticised X for disabling a feature that allowed users to report misinformation linked to elections, ahead of a key Australian referendum on indigenous people’s rights.
Inman Grant told the Guardian Australia that the company had not even been able to say how many trust and safety staff it has now.
She noted that the companies issued notices had taken seven months to respond instead of the 35 days they were initially given.
‘Not doing anything’
“We understand that it’s hard and it’s probably very confronting and exposing for these companies to actually say, ‘well … we have said this is our top priority, but really, we’re not doing anything’,” she said.
Google’s director of public policy and government affairs in Australia, Lucinda Longcroft, said in a statement that the protection of children was Google’s most important work and that it had invested significantly into stopping the spread of child abuse material.
“We remain committed to these efforts and collaborating constructively and in good faith with the eSafety Commissioner, government and industry on the shared goal of keeping Australians safer online,” Longcroft said.