In a significant blow to Elon Musk’s social media platform X, the Australian e-Safety Commission has imposed a fine of A$610,500 (approximately $386,000) for the platform’s failure to cooperate with an investigation into anti-child abuse practices. This development is the latest challenge for the company, which has grappled with the loss of advertisers and criticism regarding its content moderation policies.
X, which was rebranded from Twitter by Elon Musk, received the penalty for its alleged failure to provide responses to inquiries from the e-Safety Commission. These inquiries included questions about the platform’s response times to reports of child abuse material and the methods employed for its detection.
Although the fine is relatively small when compared to the $44 billion price tag that Elon Musk paid to acquire the platform in October 2022, it is a significant blow to X’s reputation. The platform has faced ongoing financial difficulties as advertisers reduced their spending on a platform that has notably curtailed content moderation and reinstated numerous banned user accounts.
Commissioner Julie Inman Grant emphasized the importance of cooperation in addressing illegal content. “If you’ve got answers to questions, if you’re actually putting people, processes, and technology in place to tackle illegal content at scale, and globally, and if it’s your stated priority, it’s pretty easy to say,” she remarked in an interview.
The e-Safety Commission’s fine underscores the severity of the situation. Grant stated, “The only reason I can see to fail to answer important questions about illegal content… X closed its Australian office after Musk’s buyout, so there was no local representative to respond to Reuters.”
Despite inquiries, X has yet to provide a response. A request for comment sent to the platform’s San Francisco-based media email address remains unanswered at this time.
Australia introduced laws in 2021 that empower regulators to compel internet companies to disclose information about their online safety practices or face financial penalties. Commissioner Grant emphasized that if X refuses to pay the fine, the regulator retains the option to pursue the matter through the legal system.
The actions taken by Australian authorities highlight the increasing scrutiny placed on social media platforms and their responsibilities regarding content moderation and online safety. This case serves as a reminder that even companies of global stature are not immune to the regulatory oversight of individual nations in their efforts to uphold online safety and combat illegal content.