Elon Musk's X Clashes with Australian Government Over Stabbing Video Removal

Elon Musk clashes with Australian govt over X's refusal to remove graphic church attack footage, sparking debate on social media content moderation and regulation of global tech giants.

Geeta Pillai
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Elon Musk's X Clashes with Australian Government Over Stabbing Video Removal

Elon Musk's X Clashes with Australian Government Over Stabbing Video Removal

A conflict has erupted between billionaire Elon Musk and the Australian government over X's refusal to remove graphic footage of a stabbing attack at a Sydney church in April 2024. The eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, issued a legal notice to X (formerly Twitter) to take down the violent content, but Musk has rejected the demand, accusing the commissioner of being a "Communist-era censorship enforcer" and claiming she lacks the authority to dictate what X's global audience can see.

The incident has prompted bipartisan calls in Australia for a crackdown on social media giants in the aftermath of the alleged terrorist attack. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and senior government ministers have criticized X for acting "above the law" and failing to uphold societal standards. Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek labeled Musk an "egotistical billionaire" for his reaction to remove the harmful content.

Why this matters: The clash highlights the ongoing debate over the responsibility of social media platforms to moderate violent and extremist content. It also emphasizes the difficulties governments encounter in regulating global tech giants that operate across multiple jurisdictions.

The Australian government is now preparing to take legal action against X and is considering strengthening laws to address misinformation and harmful content online. Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones warned that social media platforms must reflect community expectations, and a new mandatory code of conduct with fines for operators is being considered. The government has also promised to introduce legislation to empower the Australian Communications and Media Authority to force platforms to tackle misinformation.

X has complied with the eSafety Commissioner's directive to remove certain posts about the Sydney stabbing attack for Australian users, pending a legal challenge. However, the company has raised concerns about censorship and the jurisdiction of Australian laws. Senior Liberal frontbencher Simon Birmingham has rejected claims about censorship, backing stronger action to force the takedown of harmful content.

The stabbing attack at the Wakeley church left one man dead and several others injured. It was livestreamed on X by the alleged perpetrator before the platform removed the footage. The eSafety Commissioner has since issued notices to social media platforms to report on how they are protecting Australian users from terrorist and violent extremist material. Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, has complied with the orders, but X has resisted, setting the stage for a potential legal battle.

Key Takeaways

  • Elon Musk's X (Twitter) refuses to remove graphic stabbing attack footage, defying Australian govt.
  • Australian govt. seeks crackdown on social media, considering new laws to tackle harmful content.
  • X complies with takedown order for Australian users, but challenges jurisdiction of Australian laws.
  • Stabbing attack livestreamed on X, prompting calls for platforms to better protect users.
  • Meta complies with orders, but X resists, setting stage for potential legal battle with Australia.