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Musk calls Australian court ruling ‘censorship’

Elon Musk lashed out at Australia’s prime minister today after a court ordered his social media company X (formerly Twitter) to take down footage of an alleged terrorist attack in Sydney, and said the ruling meant any country could control “the entire internet”.

At a hearing overnight, Australia’s Federal Court ordered X to temporarily hide posts showing video of the incident a week earlier, in which a teenager was charged with terrorism for stabbing an Assyrian priest and others.

X said it had already blocked the posts from Australian users, but Australia’s e-Safety Commissioner had said the content should be taken down since it showed explicit violence.

Billionaire Elon Musk, who bought X in 2022 with a declared mission to save free speech, posted a meme on the platform that showed X stood for “free speech and truth” while other social media platforms represented “censorship and propaganda”.

“Don’t take my word for it, just ask the Australian PM!” he wrote alongside the post.

In another post, Mr Musk wrote that the company’s “concern is that if ANY country is allowed to censor content for ALL countries, which is what the Australian ‘eSafety Commissar’ is demanding, then what is to stop any country from controlling the entire Internet?”

The pushback by the world’s third-richest person sets up a new front in the battle between the platform he paid $44 billion (€41 bn) for and countries and nonprofits seeking more oversight of its content.

The Australian prime minister called Mr Musk ‘out of touch’

Last month, a US judge threw out a lawsuit by X against the hate speech watchdog, Center for Countering Digital Hate.

In Australia, the e-Safety Commissioner fined X $610,500 last year for failing to cooperate with a probe on anti-child abuse practices; X is fighting that penalty in court.

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese hit back at Mr Musk, saying the country would “do what’s necessary to take on this arrogant billionaire who thinks he’s above the law, but also above common decency”.

Mr Albanese continued: “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.”

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

Although Mr Musk wrote in another post that X had made the attack footage “inaccessible to Australian IP addresses”, a Reuters reporter in Australia was able to view to content.

“Pro-terror materials are a particularly strange hill to die on but fits the company’s chaotic and negligent approach to the most basic user safety considerations that under previous leadership, the platform used to take seriously,” said Alice Dawkins, executive director of internet policy non-profit Reset.Tech Australia.

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