eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant issues legal notices to Meta, Google, WhatsApp, Telegram, Reddit and X

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Remy Varga
The Nightly
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Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has issued separate legal notices to Meta, Google, WhatsApp, Telegram, Reddit and X.
Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has issued separate legal notices to Meta, Google, WhatsApp, Telegram, Reddit and X. Credit: The Nightly

Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta is among six tech giants issued with legal notices forcing them to reveal what they’re doing to protect Australians from terrorist and violent extremist material and activity.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has issued separate legal notices to Meta, Google, WhatsApp, Telegram, Reddit and X.

The six companies will have 49 days to provide responses.

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UNITED STATES - JANUARY 31: Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, is sworn in to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled "Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis," in Dirksen building on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta is among six tech giants issued with legal notices forcing them to reveal what they’re doing to protect Australians from terrorist and violent extremist material and activity. Credit: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

It comes after Seven West Media’s national news masthead, The Nightly, revealed big tech companies “aren’t doing enough” to tackle the unprecedented explosion in online child sexual exploitation, with 32 million reports last year alone about the horrific criminal content on major platforms each year representing “just the tip of a very large iceberg”.

Meta made up the bulk of the reports, with more than 21 million related to Facebook, followed by more than 5 million reports about Instagram.

Ms Inman Grant’s legal notices also come as Meta has come under heavy criticism from the Albanese Government for trying to walk away from deals to pay for news on its platforms, with Communications Minister Michele Rowland saying it had given Australians the “middle finger”.

Ms Inman Grant said ideological extremists had also taken hold of sites run by the tech giants to weaponise technology like live streaming, algorithms and recommender systems to promote terrorist material while they sought to capitalise on emerging technologies such as generative artificial intelligence.

“The tech companies that provide these services have a responsibility to ensure that these features and their services cannot be exploited to perpetrate such harm,” she said.

“That’s why we are sending these notices to get a look under the hood at what they are and are not doing.”

Supplied Editorial Fwd: Headshot [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said tech companies had a moral responsibility to tackle the issue of online child sexual exploitation. Credit: Supplied

The risk of terrorism and online radicalisation remains high in Australia and overseas after devastating attacks in Christchurch in New Zealand and Halle in Germany in 2019.

In 2022, Payton Gendron killed 10 people and injured three after opening fire in a grocery store in the suburb of Buffalo, New York, in a racist hate crime.

Online radicalisation played a role in each of the aforementioned attacks, which are still being used to produce material shared online.

Ms Inman Grant said the platforms shouldn’t be amplifying “the worst of the worst content” and said companies should be assessing whether their technologies could be exploited for harm.

“These companies employ the smartest people in the world, have access to the most developed technologies and have vast financial resources,” she said.

“They certainly shouldn’t be building platforms where they can’t control the content.”

A recent report found encrypted messaging app Telegram was the number one ranked mainstream platform for terrorist and violent extremist material, followed by Youtube, X, Facebook and Instagram.

The six companies will have 49 days to provide detailed responses to the office of the e-Safety commissioner and explain how they are protecting Australians online.

Ms Inman Grant has also issued legal notices to Telegram and Reddit to explain how they are detecting and removing child sexual exploitation material.

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