AUSTRALIA: The owner of Facebook, Meta Platforms (META.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O), and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) received legal letters from an Australian regulator demanding they reveal their plans for preventing child abuse content on their platforms or face penalties.
Australia takes efforts to safeguard internet users
The e-Safety Commissioner, a body, created to safeguard internet users, claimed it used laws that went into effect in January to compel the technology behemoths to reveal the steps they were taking to find and remove abusive content within 28 days. If they didn’t, each company would be subject to a daily fine of A$555,000 ($383,000).
The threat highlights Australia’s strict regulation of Big Tech companies since 2021, which has so far included laws making them pay media outlets for using their content and laws requiring them to disclose information about anonymous accounts that post defamatory material.
Internet service providers are currently facing pressure from governments across the globe to find a way to monitor encrypted messaging and streaming services for child abuse content without violating user privacy.
Australian Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said, “This activity is no longer restricted to obscure areas of the dark web but is prevalent on the mainstream platforms we and our children use every day.”
The worry is that this heinous content will spread unchecked on these platforms as more businesses implement features like live streaming and encrypted messaging services.
A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that the company had received the letter and intended to respond within 28 days. Microsoft is the owner of the video calling service Skype.
Despite still reviewing the letter, Meta, which also owns the messaging app WhatsApp, continued to “proactively engage with the eSafety Commissioner on these important issues”.
A request for comment sent via email to Apple, the company behind the messaging apps iMessage, FaceTime, and iCloud, was not immediately answered.
The eSafety Commissioner cited statistics from the U.S. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which stated that this year alone, internet companies had generated 29.1 million reports of child abuse material, of which only 160 came from Apple and 22 million from Facebook.