Australia demands measures against child abuses at online sites

CANBERRA, 24 Feb 2023:

Social media platforms Twitter and TikTok and search engine Google must explain to Australian authorities their policy and measures to combat content showing child abuse on their platforms.

The Australian Electronic Security Commission yesterday reported that it had requested information from these companies, as well as the live streaming platform Twitch and instant messaging platform Discord, which must respond within 35 days.

These five companies will also have to explain what they have done to combat the growing problems of sexual extortion and the role of algorithms that recommend sexual content and amplify the spread of this illegal material.

If companies fail to comply with the request or exceed the deadline, they could face a daily fine of A$700,000, the regulator said in a statement.

“The creation, distribution and display of child sexual abuse online inflicts untold trauma and ruins lives,” electronic safety commissioner Julie Inman said.

In August last year, the commission sent a similar request for the first time to technology giants Apple, Meta (which includes WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram), Microsoft and its Skype platform, as well as Snap (Snapchat) and Omegle.

After analysing those companies’ responses, the regulatory body harshly criticised Apple and Microsoft in a statement published in December for “not doing enough” to combat sexual exploitation on their platforms despite having the tools for it.

With this measure, the entity, which has investigated more than 76,000 cases of online child sexual exploitation since 2017, said it seeks to combat child abusers and paedophilia.

The commissioner also said yesterday Twitter CEO Elon Musk said in November the fight against child exploitation was a priority of his platform, but Australia has not since received official information on how it is implementing this commitment.

“We’ve seen significant job cuts in key trust and safety personnel – the very people whose job it is to protect children – and we want to know how Twitter will address this issue going forward,” Inman said.

These measures are part of the Online Safety Act, passed in Australia in 2021, which requires technology companies to inform the authorities about the steps they are taking to combat the proliferation of child sexual exploitation material.