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Australia PM calls Elon Musk an ‘arrogant billionaire’

24-04-2024

CANBERRA: Australia’s leader has called Elon Musk an “arrogant billionaire” in an escalating feud over X’s reluctance to remove footage of a church stabbing.

On Monday, an Australian court ordered Musk’s social media firm, formerly called Twitter to hide videos of last week’s attack in Sydney.

X previously said it would comply “pending a legal challenge”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s criticism followed Musk using a meme to accuse his government of censorship.

On Tuesday, Albanese told media that Musk “thinks he’s above the law but also above common decency”.

Last week Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, an independent regulator, threatened X and other social media companies with hefty fines if they did not remove videos of the stabbing at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church, which police have called a terror attack.

X has argued the order is “not within the scope of Australian law”.

The commissioner sought a court injunction after saying it was clear that X was allowing users outside Australia to continue accessing footage.

“I find it extraordinary that X chose not to comply and are trying to argue their case,” Albanese told a press briefing.

In a subsequent series of online posts, Musk wrote: “I’d like to take a moment to thank the PM for informing the public that this platform is the only truthful one.” Another depicted a Wizard of Oz-style path to “freedom” leading to an X logo.

Earlier, he also criticized eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant personally, describing her as the “Australian censorship commissar”.

Albanese defended Inman Grant, saying she was protecting Australians.

“Social media needs to have social responsibility with it. Musk is not showing any,” he said.

The platform will have 24 hours to comply with Monday evening’s injunction, with a further hearing into the matter expected in the coming days.

X and the eSafety Commissioner are already involved in legal proceedings over the platform’s alleged failure to provide information over how it tracks and removes child abuse material online.

Meanwhile, Australia’s cyber watchdog has called on Twitter, which is owned by multi-billionaire Elon Musk, to explain its handling of online hate.

The country’s online safety commissioner says Twitter has become the most complained about platform.

Twitter has been 28 days to respond to the regulator or face potential fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Musk bought the firm last year for $44bn (A$64bn; £34.5bn) and promised to protect free speech on the platform.

A legal notice was sent to ‘Twitter’ demanding an explanation after one-third of all complaints received about online hate concerned the platform, Julie Inman Grant said. That is even though Twitter has far fewer users than TikTok, Facebook and Instagram.

The company has been told to respond to the watchdog within 28 days or face penalties of up to A$700,000 (£371,570; $475,300) a day for continuing breaches.

“Twitter appears to have dropped the ball on tackling hate,” Inman Grant said.

“We are also aware of reports that the reinstatement of some of these previously banned accounts has emboldened extreme polarizers, peddlers of outrage and hate, including neo-Nazis both in Australia and overseas,” she added.

The demand builds on a campaign by the regulator to make the social media company more accountable. (Int’l News Desk)

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