Australia has fined X (formerly Twitter) for failing to answer all its questions about child exploitation. The country’s government levied a penalty of AUD 610,500 (around $387,000) for the Elon Musk-owned company’s non-compliance with a national law requiring social platforms to disclose how they’re combating online child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
“Companies can make empty statements like ‘Child exploitation is our top priority,’ so what we’re saying is show us,” Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, told The New York Times in an interview. “This is important not only in terms of deterrence in the types of defiance we are seeing from the companies but because this information is in the public interest.”
Australian officials said neither X nor Google fully complied with the questions. While Google received a formal warning for “giving generic or aggregated information across multiple services where information regarding specific services was required,” X’s violation “was more serious.” Inman Grant said X failed to reply adequately to questions while leaving other boxes blank. “In other instances, Twitter provided a response that was otherwise incomplete or inaccurate,” she wrote.
The official says her department sent a notice to X (then Twitter) on February 22, asking it to fulfill its report by answering mandatory questions; she gave the company 35 days to reply. The company responded on March 29. Inman Grant wrote that she identified 14 questions (including sub-questions) where the firm failed to provide the required info. Her office sent follow-up questions on April 6. Musk’s company responded on May 5, leading Inman Grant to conclude the company had held back info in its initial response. She wrote, “It is evident from many of X Corp.’s subsequent responses that it held information required by the Notice and was capable of providing that information at first instance.”
Inman Grant wrote that the nation can seek civil penalties through the courts if X doesn’t pay the fine. And more compliance tools are on the way. “We also have more powerful systemic tools coming online next year in the form of industry codes and standards which will ensure companies are living up to their responsibilities to protect children,” she wrote.
As highlighted by The NYT, X told the Australian regulators, “Children are not our target customer, and our service is not overwhelmingly used by children.” However, CEO Linda Yaccarino recently said in a forum that Gen Z was the platform’s fastest-growing demographic, with 200 million unique monthly visitors among teens and young adults in their 20s.