Australian regulatory committee fines Elon Musk's social media platform X for child abuse prevention failures

16 Oct 2023

Australian regulatory committee fines Elon Musk's social media platform X for child abuse prevention failures

Elon Musk’s social media platform X has been fined by an Australian regulator for failing to cooperate with a probe into anti-child abuse practices. This will come as a huge blow to the company, as they are already struggling to keep a firm grip on their advertisers.

The e-Safety Commission, an Australian regulatory body, fined X, formerly known as Twitter, $386,000. They have issued a statement saying they failed to respond to the questions regarding child abuse material on their platform. The commission has also raised several questions about the complexity of the methods used to detect such materials on the platform.

Elon Musk, the eccentric billionaire, paid $44 billion for Twitter in October 2022 and rebranded it as X amid several controversies regarding layoffs and poor work culture. This fine comes more as a reputational hit than a monetary hit, as advertisers have cut spending on the platform. This is because of several concerns regarding content moderation, a key area for the platform to survive and thrive.

Recently, the European Union (EU) said that they were investigating X for a potential breach of their new tech rules. This occurred after the platform was accused of not preventing the spread of false information about Hamas's attack on Israel.

Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, in an interview, stated, "It's quite straightforward to respond if you have solutions to address widespread global illegal content and make it a top priority by implementing people, processes, and technology." She also emphasized that the only plausible reason for not addressing significant questions about illegal content and conduct on platforms is a lack of answers. Inman Grant served as a public policy director for X until 2016.

According to the Australian laws that took effect in 2021, the regulator can force internet companies to provide information related to their online safety practices or face a fine. X could be dragged to court if they refuse to pay the fine.

Elon Musk had made removing child exploitation practices from the platform a priority while purchasing Twitter. However, the Australian regulator noted that when it inquired about X's measures to prevent child grooming on the platform, X's response was that it was "not a service commonly used by a significant number of young individuals."

Inman Grant also mentioned that the commission issued a warning to Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet, due to its failure to fully comply with the request for information regarding its management of child abuse content. The regulator characterized Google's responses to certain queries as "generic." In response, Google expressed its disappointment with the warning and asserted its cooperation with the regulator.


Google's director of government affairs and public policy for Australia, Lucinda Longcroft, stated, "We remain dedicated to these initiatives and are committed to constructive collaboration with the e-Safety Commissioner, the government, and industry, all working together towards the common objective of enhancing online safety for Australians."

The regulator deemed X's noncompliance a more serious offense because of its inability to provide responses regarding the time taken to address reports of child abuse, the procedures in place for identifying child abuse during livestreams, and its staffing figures for content moderation, safety, and public policy.

The company has even confirmed to the regulator that they have cut their workforce by 80% and do not have any public policy staff in Australia. Before Musk’s takeover, there were two public policy staff in Australia.

X informed the regulator that its proactive identification of child abuse material in public posts had dropped following Musk's decision to privatize the company.

Additionally, the company explained to the regulator that it refrained from employing tools to detect such material in private messages, citing that "the technology is still in the developmental phase."

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