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Elon Musk and X’s vow to fight Australian online safety watchdog

Newstalk ZB, news.com.au,
Publish Date
Mon, 22 Apr 2024, 9:35am
Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Elon Musk and X’s vow to fight Australian online safety watchdog

Newstalk ZB, news.com.au,
Publish Date
Mon, 22 Apr 2024, 9:35am

Elon Musk and his social media company X have pledged to fight Australia’s online safety watchdog over posts about the alleged Western Sydney church stabbing. The CEO has accused Australia’s eSafety commissioner of censorship and has vowed to challenge an order to remove content on X, formerly Twitter, relating to the horrific incident in court.

On Tuesday, X and Meta were issued a notice to remove material within 24 hours that depicted “gratuitous or offensive violence with a high degree of impact or detail”.

The companies were warned that if they failed to comply, they could face potential fines of up to AU$785,000 a day.

The move is related to the alleged stabbing of bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel during a service at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley on Monday night.

The horrific alleged stabbing was all caught on camera due to the service being livestreamed, which saw graphic uncensored clips of the alleged attack to be widely circulated online.

However, the company stated that the posts did not violate X’s rules on violent speech.

A statement from X’s global government affairs team, which was reposted by Musk, said the company complied with the directive by the commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, to remove “certain posts in Australia that publicly commented” on Monday’s attack.

“The recent attacks in Australia are a horrific assault on free society. Our condolences go out to those who have been affected, and we stand with the Australian people in calling for those responsible to be brought to justice,” the statement read.

“Following these events, the Australian eSafety Commissioner ordered X to remove certain posts in Australia that publicly commented on the recent attack against a Christian Bishop.

“These posts did not violate X’s rules on violent speech.

“X believes that eSafety’s order was not within the scope of Australian law and we complied with the directive pending a legal challenge.

“X has now received a demand from the eSafety Commissioner that X globally withhold these posts or face a daily fine of $785,000 AUD (about $500,000 USD).

“This was a tragic event and we do not allow people to praise it or call for further violence.

“There is a public conversation happening about the event, on X and across Australia, as is often the case when events of major public concern occur.

“While X respects the right of a country to enforce its laws within its jurisdiction, the eSafety Commissioner does not have the authority to dictate what content X’s users can see globally.

“We will robustly challenge this unlawful and dangerous approach in court.

“Global takedown orders go against the very principles of a free and open internet and threaten free speech everywhere.”

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler told reporters in Adelaide that the government would take X to task if it wanted to pursue the matter in court.

“Australia is not going to be bullied by Elon Musk, or any other tech billionaire, in our commitment to making sure that social media is a safe space,” Butler said.

“So if he wants to fight that fine in court, well, we’re up for that fight.”

There have been calls for harsher sanctions for social media platforms in light of the April 13 Westfield Bondi massacre that claimed six lives.

Distressing and graphic footage of the attack was rapidly uploaded online, and misinformation spread.

NSW Premier Chris Minns blasted X on Saturday and said it was time for penalties for social media companies to be strengthened.

“This is exactly as I’d expect from X, or Twitter, or whatever you want to call it,” Minns told reporters.

“A disregard for the information that they pump into our communities, lies and rumours spreading like wildfire.

“Then when things go wrong, throwing their hands up in the air to say that they’re not prepared to do anything about it.”

The NSW premier and other leaders met with Assyrian community groups after the alleged church stabbing and stated that they collectively condemned the violence.

“If anyone acts in that way, they are doing it in complete defiance of the religious leadership of NSW and it is against the law,” Minns said.

A 16-year-old male was charged with a terrorism offence over the incident and will face court in June.

eSafety said it expected platforms to make “genuine efforts” to protect Australians from harmful content.

“eSafety is aware social media users continue to upload and reshare distressing content and appreciates it is challenging for platforms to manage this,” the statement said.

“We are also aware some platforms are responding by applying technological solutions to prevent or reduce proliferation … eSafety welcomes these actions.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Friday that social media companies were responsible for protecting the community from the spread of troubling content.

“It shouldn’t need the eSafety commissioner to intervene, to direct companies, in this case X and Meta, to take down violent videos,” he said.

“We are prepared to take whatever action is necessary to haul these companies into line.

“We’ve made that very clear because of the damage that a failure to act can have.”

- by Jasmine Kazlauskas, news.com.au

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