Australia’s prime minister calls Elon Musk an ‘arrogant billionaire’


Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese lashed out at tech mogul Elon Musk on Tuesday, labeling him an “arrogant billionaire” over an ongoing dispute about whether videos from a church stabbing in Sydney should be shown on Musk’s social media platform, X, formerly Twitter.

Albanese in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said his country would “do what’s necessary to take on this arrogant billionaire, who thinks he’s above the law but also above common decency.”

Albanese said the episode showed that Musk was “out-of-touch” with the public, adding that “social media needs to have social responsibility with it — Mr. Musk is not showing any.”

Australia’s federal court late Monday issued an interim injunction ordering X to temporarily hide posts that showed footage of the Sydney church attack, where an Assyrian bishop was stabbed by a teenager during a live stream.

Musk — one of the world’s wealthiest men and the CEO of Tesla — is a self-proclaimed free speech advocate and hit back at the court order on X, tweeting that the issue amounted to international censorship.

“I do not think I’m above the law. Does the PM think he should have jurisdiction over all of Earth?” Musk said, referring to Albanese. “This platform adheres to the laws of countries in those countries, but it would be improper to extend one country’s rulings to other countries,” he tweeted.

Australia’s esafety commissioner, which independently regulates online safety, said in a statement Tuesday that its removal notice issued to X required it to “take all reasonable steps to ensure the removal of the extreme violent video content,” of the 15 April church attack.

“While it may be difficult to eradicate damaging content from the internet entirely, particularly as users continue to repost it, eSafety requires platforms to do everything practical and reasonable to minimize the harm it may cause to Australians,” it said. “To be clear, eSafety’s removal notice does not relate to commentary, public debate or other posts about this event, even those which may link to extreme violent content. It only concerns the video of the violent stabbing attack.”

Musk asked in a post whether it was right that the “eSafety Commissar (an unelected official) in Australia have authority over all countries on Earth?”

“Our 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?” he said.

The commissioner’s office added that it would be seeking a “permanent injunction” to remove the videos as well as “civil penalties against X Corp.” Under Australian law, the maximum civil penalty for noncompliance with a removal notice for companies could amount to over $500,000 per contravention, creating a potentially hefty bill for X.

The regulator added that other tech companies including Google, Microsoft, Meta, Snap and TikTok had mostly complied with its requests to remove and “reduce further spread of the material.”

Musk has said that his platform has “actually blocked the content in question for Australian IP addresses, pending legal appeal, and it only exists on servers in the USA.”

The attack on the orthodox church in suburban Sydney left Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel injured after he was stabbed with a knife at the lectern while delivering a live-streamed sermon. The incident shocked Australians and is being investigated as a potential act of terrorism, police said. A 16-year-old boy has been charged.

One lawmaker in Australia, independent Sen. Jacqui Lambie, has gone a step further, deleting her X account and urging other politicians to do the same.

“He has absolutely no social conscience,” Lambie said of Musk during an interview with Sky News on Tuesday. “That bloke should not have a right to be out there … creating hatred.”

“I’ll be switching off X today,” she vowed. “Show them that you mean business,” she added. As of late Tuesday her account appeared to have been deleted.

Since taking over Twitter in 2022, Musk has loosened the platform’s restrictions on hateful content and misinformation in the name of free speech and restored thousands of banned accounts.

Last year, X was fined $386,000 in Australia for failing to cooperate with a probe into anti-child-abuse practices. Musk is also involved in another ongoing dispute in Brazil, where a Supreme Court justice has accused him of allowing his social media platform to support “digital militias” that are using disinformation to threaten democracy. Musk has rejected the claims.

The ongoing legal battles could influence how social media platforms police their users in countries that regulate free speech differently than the United States.

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