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X's new opt-in system for adult content isn't enough

Online Safety
6 June 2024
X twitter

The social media platform X announced new policies on Monday to restrict the accessibility of adult and violent content by blocking it from users under 18 or those who do not opt-in.

In response to increasing global regulatory pressure to protect children from inappropriate content, X's updated policies require users posting adult content, including nudity and sexual acts, to apply content warnings. Users under 18 or without a birthdate in their profile will be unable to view such content.

X stated it will automatically adjust account settings for users who fail to mark their pornographic posts appropriately. Similar rules apply to violent content, including speech or media that threatens or glorifies violence.

Research from January 2023 by the UK children’s commissioner revealed that 41% of teenagers aged 16 to 18 had seen pornography on X, more than on dedicated adult sites.

Historically, X has neither explicitly forbidden nor officially permitted adult content. The new guidelines, posted on X’s help pages, now explicitly allow users to share adult and graphic content, including AI-generated material, under specific conditions. Content must be consensually produced, appropriately labelled, and will not be visible to users under 18 or those who do not opt-in to view it.

X’s updated guidance states: “We believe that users should be able to create, distribute, and consume material related to sexual themes as long as it is consensually produced and distributed. Sexual expression, whether visual or written, can be a legitimate form of artistic expression.”

The new rules could enable X to develop services around adult content, potentially boosting its revenue while maintaining compliance with app store guidelines and international regulations.

Australian online safety regulator Julie Inman Grant accused Apple and Google of financial motives for allowing X and Reddit to host adult content – she highlighted the significant revenue generated from these apps as a deterrent to enforcing their guidelines strictly.

“There’s a huge disincentive right now for the app stores to actually follow their own [policies],” she said.

“They collect a 30% tithe from every transaction that happens on a social media site … Think about the force multiplier of deplatforming an app and what that would mean to their revenue.”

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