Elon Musk is clashing with Australia’s political leadership over X’s dispute on censorship grounds to takedown a video of a violent knife attack.

The Associated Press reported that Elon Musk had accused Australia of censorship after an Australian judge ordered X (as well as Meta Platforms) to block users worldwide from accessing video of a bishop being stabbed in a Sydney church.

Australia’s eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, had last week ordered the removal of material deemed to depict “gratuitous or offensive violence with a high degree of impact or detail” within 24 hours or potentially face fines.

Censorship issue?

The offending video footage is of the stabbing of bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel on 15 April while he was giving a livestreamed service at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley.

That knife attack came shortly after another criminal in Australia was shot and killed by a police officer, after he stabbed six people to death and wounded more than a dozen others.

Both Meta and X said they had complied with the request.

The video on X was geoblocked from Australia but available elsewhere.

X intends to launch a legal case challenging the order, after X’s Global Government Affairs account tweeted the following:

“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 Global Government Affairs account said. “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,” it added.

It said that the Australian regulator had demanded the platform “globally withhold these posts or face a daily fine of $785,000.”

Musk claims

Musk also tweeted from his personal account that “the Australian censorship commissar is demanding *global* content bans!”

Musk then posted a cartoon that depicted a fork in a road with one path leading to “free speech” and “truth” and the other to “censorship” and “propaganda.”

Musk also cited Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as telling reporters Monday that other social media platforms had largely complied with the regulator’s orders to take violent content down.

“I’d like to take a moment to thank the PM for informing the public that this platform is the only truthful one,” Musk posted.

Arrogant billionaire

But Prime Minister Albanese berated Musk in several television interviews on Tuesday, describing Musk as an “arrogant billionaire” who considered himself above the law and was out of touch with the public.

“We’ll do what’s necessary to take on this arrogant billionaire who thinks he’s above the law, but also above common decency,” Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “The idea that someone would go to court for the right to put up violent content on a platform shows how out of touch Mr. Musk is. Social media needs to have social responsibility with it.”

Albanese told Sky News, “This is a bloke who’s chosen ego and showing violence over common sense.”

“This isn’t about censorship. It’s about common sense and common decency. And Elon Musk should show some,” Albanese told Seven Network.

The Australian regulator’s lawyer, Christopher Tran, had argued Monday in court that geoblocking Australia did not meet the definition of removal of the footage under Australian law.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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