X fined $386,000 for not cooperating in child-abuse investigation in Australia

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Elon Musk’s social media platform, X, has incurred a fine of A$610,500 (approximately $386,000) from the Australian e-Safety Commission for its failure to cooperate with an investigation into its practices related to preventing child abuse.

This financial penalty is a significant blow to the platform, which has been grappling with declining revenue and facing criticism for its content moderation policies.

The e-Safety Commission imposed this fine on X, which was formerly known as Twitter before Musk’s rebranding, due to its refusal to respond to inquiries regarding how it handles reports of child abuse material and the techniques it employs to identify such content. The platform’s lack of cooperation during the investigation has raised concerns about its commitment to addressing illegal content.

While the fine appears relatively small in comparison to the $44 billion Musk paid for the platform in October 2022, it represents a notable blow to X’s reputation. Advertisers have been scaling back their investments in the platform as it has significantly reduced content moderation and reinstated numerous previously banned accounts.

The European Union recently initiated an investigation into X for possible violations of its tech regulations, particularly concerning disinformation linked to the attack by Hamas on Israel.

The Australian e-Safety Commission wields the authority to compel internet companies to provide information about their online safety practices. Failing to comply with such requests can result in fines. Should X opt not to pay the fine, the regulator may pursue the matter through legal channels.

Despite Musk’s statement that “removing child exploitation is priority #1” after taking the company private, the regulator identified inconsistencies in X’s responses. The platform claimed that it was “not a service used by large numbers of young people” when asked about its efforts to prevent child grooming. X also stated that the available anti-grooming technology was not sufficiently capable or accurate for deployment on the platform.

The e-Safety Commission also issued a warning to Alphabet’s Google for noncompliance with its request for information about the handling of child abuse content. Some of Google’s responses were considered “generic” by the regulator. Google expressed disappointment with the warning and affirmed its commitment to collaborating on online safety.

The non-compliance of X with the regulator’s requests was regarded as more serious, as it failed to answer questions regarding response times to child abuse reports, efforts to detect abuse in live streams, and staffing levels for content moderation, safety, and public policy.

The platform confirmed that it had reduced its global workforce by 80% and had no public policy staff in Australia following Musk’s takeover. X also indicated that it did not employ tools to detect child abuse material in private messages due to the technology being in a developmental stage.

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