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Elon Musk’s X, Australia government clash over order to take down church

Elon Musk lashed out at Australia’s prime minister on Tuesday after a court ordered his social media company X 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, formerly called Twitter, to temporarily hide posts showing video of the incident earlier this month, in which a teenager was charged with terrorism for knifing 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.

“Does the PM think he should have jurisdiction over all of Earth?” Musk wrote in a post, referring to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

A police officer with a tripod is shown on the sidewalk leading to a small church building.
A police forensic officer works at a crime scene at the Christ the Good Shepherd church in western Sydney on April 16. Hours earlier, the church’s service was livestreamed, capturing a knife attack that wounded the church’s bishop. (Mark Baker/The Associated Press)

The billionaire, who bought X in 2022 with a declared mission to save free speech, although some groups have suggested that harmful content has increased on the site, leading some advertisers to flee. Musk posted a meme on the platform that showed X stood for “free speech and truth” while other social media platforms represented “censorship and propaganda.”

Musk also wrote 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?”

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‘Arrogant billionaire’

The pushback sets up a new front in the battle between the world’s largest internet platforms and countries and nonprofits and governments seeking more oversight of the content hosted on them.

Last month, a U.S. 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 the equivalent of $540,000 Cdn last year for failing to co-operate with a probe on anti-child abuse practices; X is fighting that penalty in court.

Albanese hit back at 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.”

“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,” Albanese told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Still viewable in Australia

A spokesperson for e-safety commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the takedown notice was for the attack footage only, and not for “commentary, public debate or other posts about this event, even those which may link to extreme violent content.”

“While it may be difficult to eradicate damaging content from the internet…

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