"Not About Freedom Of Expression": Aussie Politicians Unite Against Elon Musk's X

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024 - 01:40 AM

Authored by Monica O'Shea via The Epoch Times,

Elon Musk’s X is facing strong criticism from both the centre-left Labor Party and the centre-right Liberal-National Coalition in Australia amid a legal challenge against the country’s online content tsar.

Mr. Musk labelled Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant (a former Twitter employee), the “Australian censorship commissar,” after she issued an order to X to take down videos related to the alleged stabbing of a Christian bishop.

X says it had removed all posts domestically, but the commissioner’s order calls for the removal of content around the world.

X is planning to challenge this in court, and said the posts did not violate its rules on “violent speech” - content that incites or glorifies violence.

Shadow Minister Says Musk Being ‘Irresponsible’

However, the Liberal Party’s Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham called X’s contention a “completely ridiculous and preposterous argument.”

“The type of standards that we expect in everyday life that we expect in other forms of media should be able to be applied to the online world as well,” Mr. Birmingham said on ABC News Breakfast on April 22.

“The idea that it is censorship to say that imagery of a terrorist attack, of a stabbing incident should not be able to be broadcast in an unfiltered way for all to see—children to access and otherwise—is an insulting and offensive argument.”

The senator also argued Mr. Musk’s argument was “irresponsible” given the impact of the social media posts on potential terrorists.

“It is also an irresponsible one when you consider the implications that can have for inspiring potentially future terrorists, for creating discord and disharmony in communities, and driving people further apart when such images are manipulated or used with propaganda or other information,” he said.

Labor Government Paints Musk As ‘Bully’

This comes after Labor’s Health Minister Mark Butler said the government would not be “bullied” by Mr. Musk.

“And can I say this: 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,” Mr. Butler said during a press conference.

Mr. Butler said if Mr. Musk wanted to fight the fine in court, the government was up for it because they were determined to keep “social media safe.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he found it “extraordinary X chose not to comply.”

“We know, I think overwhelmingly, Australians want misinformation and disinformation to stop. This isn’t about freedom of expression,” he told reporters.

“This is about the dangerous implications that can occur when things that are simply not true, that everyone knows is not true, are replicated and weaponised in order to cause division, and in this case, to promote negative statements.”

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek called Mr. Musk an “egotistical billionaire.”

“It’s more important for him to have his way than to respect the victims of the crimes that are being shown on social media and to protect our Australian community from the harmful impact of showing this terrible stuff on social media,” she said on Sunrise.

“We need to keep Australians safe from this terrible stuff on social media. And Elon Musk doesn’t dictate to the Australian government what we are doing here domestically with our laws.”

Opposition Switches Gears, Will Back ‘Misinformation’ Laws

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton agreed there was a case for “tougher action” against social media companies during an interview with ABC Insiders on April 22.

“No question at all, and I think there’s a bipartisan position in relation to this. We know that the companies—and we’ve seen some of the comments from Elon Musk overnight—they see themselves above the law,” Mr. Dutton claimed.

“The Australian law here should apply equally in the real world as it does online.”

Mr. Dutton pointed out social media companies turnover billions of dollars of revenue in the Australian economy and indicated the laws should apply to them within the country.

“I think there’s a red herring in a sense here. When Elon Musk says that there’s not extraterritorial reach—that is the Australian law can’t apply to other parts of the world—I’m sure that’s the case. But in terms of the content, which is displayed here, or broadcast here, well the Australian law does apply,” Mr. Dutton said.

Mr. Dutton also indicated the Opposition would support Labor’s misinformation and disinformation laws, despite the Shadow Communications Minister David Coleman being very critical of the law in September.

“Yeah, we are, and happy to have a look at anything the government puts forward, as we’ve said over the last week, with the horrendous scenes that we’ve seen.”

What Did X Do?

X received a global takedown order from Australia’s eSafety commissioner to remove posts following the knife attack on a Christian bishop during a livestream service.

However, X says the posts did not violate the platform’s rules on “violent speech,” and revealed it had received a demand from the eSafety commissioner to remove all posts globally—or face a daily fine of $785,000 (US$506,000).

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

“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.

On April 16, the eSafety commissioner confirmed it had issued legal notices to X and Meta to remove material within 24 hours.

The commissioner said notices related to material that depicted “gratuitous or offence violence with a high degree of impact or detail.”

“While the majority of mainstream social media platforms have engaged with us, I am not satisfied enough is being done to protect Australians from this most extreme and gratuitous violent material circulating online,” Ms. Inman Grant said.

“That is why I am exercising my powers under the Online Safety Act to formally compel them to remove it.”