X fined $610,500 by Australia over CSAM inquiry

16 Oct 2023

Image: © MMollaretti/Stock.adobe.com

The country’s online safety regulator also said Google failed to comply with the information request, but said X’s non-compliance was ‘more serious’.

Elon Musk’s X – formerly known as Twitter – has been hit with a $610,500 fine by Australia for not tackling child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

Australia’s online safety regulator said the website failed to respond to key questions around how it tackles CSAM content. This regulator said Google also failed to comply with certain information requests, but said X’s non-compliance was “more serious”.

The country’s eSafety commissioner issued legal notices to X, Google, TikTok, Twitch and Discord in February to have these companies explain the measures they are taking to address this issue.

The report claims X left some sections for responses “entirely blank”, or provided responses that were incomplete and inaccurate in some cases. The company also failed to respond to key questions such as how it detects CSAM content in livestreams and the time it takes the platform to respond to CSAM reports.

X has 28 days from today (16 October) to pay the fine or to request a withdrawal of the infringement notice. The Australian regulator said it could take further action if X fails to pay this penalty.

Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety commissioner, said the non-compliance of X and Google was disappointing as the questions relate to the protection of children.

“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,” Inman Grant said.

“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.”

X was criticised in Australia earlier this year for restoring an account on the platform that shared CSAM content. A company representative defended the decision in front of an Australian parliamentary committee in August, The Guardian reports.

Meanwhile, the EU is investigating X over claims that disinformation about the Israel-Hamas conflict in Palestine is spreading on the platform.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic