Updated April 23rd, 2024 at 10:10 IST

Elon Musk criticises Australian court over 'censorship' of X terror posts

Musk shared a meme implying that X stood for "free speech and truth", contrasting it with other platforms that represented "censorship and propaganda".

Reported by: Business Desk
Elon Musk | Image:Republic
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Elon Musk X controversy: Elon Musk has launched a scathing attack on Australia's prime minister after a court ruled that his social media company X must remove footage of an alleged terrorist attack in Sydney. Musk asserted that the ruling implied any country could control "the entire internet".

During an overnight hearing, Australia's Federal Court instructed X, formerly known as Twitter, to temporarily conceal posts containing video footage of the incident that occurred a week earlier. The incident involved a teenager being charged with terrorism for attacking an Assyrian priest and others with a knife.

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While X stated it had already restricted access to the posts for Australian users, the country's e-Safety Commissioner argued that the content should be taken down due to its depiction of explicit violence.

Billionaire Musk, who acquired X in 2022 with a stated mission to uphold free speech, took to the platform to express his discontent. He shared a meme implying that X stood for "free speech and truth", contrasting it with other social media platforms that represented "censorship and propaganda".

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"Don't take my word for it, just ask the Australian PM!" Musk remarked alongside the post.

In another statement, Musk voiced concerns about the potential ramifications of allowing any country to censor content for all countries, as demanded by the Australian eSafety Commissioner. He questioned what would prevent any country from controlling the entirety of the internet under such circumstances.

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Musk's resistance, coming from one of the world's wealthiest individuals, introduces a new dimension to the ongoing struggle between major internet platforms and governments or organisations advocating for greater oversight of hosted content.

Recently, a US judge dismissed a lawsuit by X against the hate speech watchdog, Centre for Countering Digital Hate. In Australia, the e-Safety Commissioner imposed a fine of A$610,500 on X last year for failing to cooperate with an investigation into anti-child abuse practices; X is contesting this penalty in court.

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese responded to Musk's comments, stating that the country would take necessary action against the "arrogant billionaire" who believes he is above both the law and common decency.

Albanese criticised Musk's stance, highlighting the absurdity of seeking court protection for the right to publish violent content on a platform.

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Representatives for X and the e-Safety Commissioner were not immediately available for comment.

Despite Musk's claim that X had made the attack footage inaccessible to Australian IP addresses, a Reuters reporter in Australia was able to access the content.

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On Tuesday, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced that it had utilised internal tools to identify and block copies of videos depicting the church attack and an unrelated stabbing incident at a shopping mall in Sydney two days earlier. Meta stated that it was removing posts containing any glorification or praise of these incidents.

Alice Dawkins, executive director of internet policy non-profit Reset.Tech Australia, remarked that Musk's remarks aligned with "the company's chaotic and negligent approach to the most basic user safety considerations that under previous leadership, the platform used to take seriously."

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(With Reuters inputs.)

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Published April 23rd, 2024 at 10:10 IST