Australian Politicians Slam Elon Musk and Social Media Billionaires for Acting Above the Law

Australian politicians denounce Elon Musk and social media billionaires for acting above the law, reigniting calls for harsher regulations to hold platforms accountable for harmful content.

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Geeta Pillai
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Australian Politicians Slam Elon Musk and Social Media Billionaires for Acting Above the Law

Australian Politicians Slam Elon Musk and Social Media Billionaires for Acting Above the Law

On Friday, Australian politicians from both the Labor and Coalition parties denounced Elon Musk and other social media billionaires for acting above the law during an ongoing dispute with Musk's company, X (formerly Twitter). The dispute centered around X's refusal to remove videos depicting a church stabbing attack in Sydney, despite orders from the eSafety Commissioner.

Labor frontbencher Murray Watt described Musk as a "narcissistic billionaire" and said the public has had enough of these billionaires who think they are above the law. "These companies have a social responsibility to do the right thing by their consumers and comply with the laws, just like everyone else," Watt stated.

The eSafety commissioner had warned X and Facebook's parent company Meta that they could face potential fines for failing to comply with an order to remove content related to the church stabbing incident within 24 hours. The content was deemed to depict "gratuitous or offensive violence." However, Musk accused the eSafety commissioner of censorship and vowed to challenge the court order, claiming the posts did not violate X's rules on violent speech.

Why this matters: This incident highlights the ongoing tensions between social media platforms and government regulators over content moderation and the enforcement of local laws. It also underscores the challenges in holding tech billionaires and their companies accountable for the content shared on their platforms.

Australian government officials, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Health Minister Mark Butler, have warned that they will not be "bullied" by Musk or any other tech billionaire, and are prepared to take legal action against X if necessary. The incident has reignited calls for harsher sanctions and penalties for social media platforms that fail to remove harmful content.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton signaled that the Coalition is now willing to work with the government to strengthen existing eSafety laws and introduce new misinformation legislation, which they had previously opposed. Communications Minister Michelle Rowland confirmed the government's plans to introduce new legislation this year to hold social media companies accountable for harmful misinformation and disinformation.

Experts said this case highlighted the ineffectiveness of Australia's current laws in regulating social media platforms. Politicians expressed frustration with social media companies impeding law enforcement and allowing harmful content to spread, emphasizing that the same laws must apply online as in the real world. They called for tougher responses, including new powers for the Australian Communications and Media Authority to combat misinformation online.

Key Takeaways

  • Australian politicians denounce Elon Musk and social media billionaires for acting above the law.
  • X (Twitter) refused to remove videos of a church stabbing attack, despite orders from the eSafety Commissioner.
  • Australian government warns it will not be "bullied" and may take legal action against X.
  • Calls for harsher sanctions and new misinformation legislation to hold social media companies accountable.
  • Experts say current laws are ineffective in regulating social media platforms and their harmful content.