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Elon Musk vs. Australia: Fight heats up over video of church stabbing in Sydney on X

Elon Musk vs. Australia: Fight heats up over video of church stabbing in Sydney on X


Brisbane, Australia
CNN

In one camp is a tech billionaire with more than 181 million followers on his private social network. In the other, political leaders represent a country with a population of only 26 million people.

Insults have been hurled for days from both sides in an increasingly acrimonious battle between X owner Elon Musk and the Australian government that is being fought online and in federal court.

It concerns X's right to publish a video showing Moment A A 16-year-old allegedly stabbed a bishop At an Orthodox Christian church in Sydney earlier this month.

Australian authorities say the clips added fuel to the riots that broke out outside the church after the attack, and should not be made available for public viewing on a global platform, where they could be used to radicalize potential criminals.

The country's e-safety commissioner ordered social media giants to remove it.

Most complied, but X went no further, according to the commissioner.

Australia wants X to remove the video entirely, not just hide it from Australian users who can circumvent local bans using VPNs.

X says this is an assault on freedom of expression.

“Our concern is that if any country is allowed to censor content for all countries, which is what the Australian e-Safety Commissioner is calling for, what is to stop any country from controlling the entire internet? Post Musk on X.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Tuesday described Musk as “an arrogant billionaire who believes he is above the law, but also above public decency.”

After deleting herPut on his big pants and do the right thing“.

The post went down around midnight in the US, and as of this writing, President X has not responded. Although her previous calls on national television for Musk to be jailed led to her being branded “An enemy of the people of Australia“.

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X did not respond to a request for comment.

Senator Jackie Lambie/Facebook

Along with her letter to Musk, Australian Senator Jackie Lambie posted a photo of herself in military fatigues taken at the Junior Leadership Camp for veterans in January.

On Wednesday, more than a week after the attack, the video was still available to watch on the Australian Jewish Association (AJA)'s X account. President David Adler told CNN he had not been asked to take it down, either by X or the Australian e-Safety Commissioner.

Adler said the AJA received an email from

According to the email seen by CNN, X said: “We want you to have the opportunity to evaluate the request and, if you wish, take appropriate action to protect your interests.”

The AJA did not remove the video, because Adler believes it is important for people to see it.

“The reason we are doing this is because security issues are extremely important to the Jewish community,” Adler said. “Politicians are not taking the risks of extremism seriously enough. One of the benefits of showing exactly what happened is a public wake-up. Often, politicians will not act without public pressure, and there needs to be a bit of a wake-up call about the risks.”

CNN has contacted the eSafety office for comment on the AJA's decision not to remove the video.

The dangers of extremism became clear on Wednesday with a series of raids at 13 Sydney locations by the Joint Terrorism Team in connection with the church attack.

Chrissie Barrett, Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, said in a press conference that seven young men between the ages of 15 and 17 were arrested, and five of them were assisting police in their investigations.

“We have identified links between the alleged perpetrator and a network of partners and peers who we believe share a similar violent extremist ideology,” she said. “At this time, we have no evidence of the specific locations, times or targets of the violence.”

The arrests came as the heads of the AFP and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) delivered a joint speech to the National Press Club warning the risks are extreme – and urging social media companies to work with police against forces seeking to radicalize children.

“Some of our children and other vulnerable people are being bewitched online by a cauldron of extremist poison on the open and dark web. This is a serious problem. Another reason is that the nature of social media allows this extremist poison to spread around the world almost instantaneously.”

Musk's refusal to remove the videos led to the Australian Cyber ​​Safety Commissioner taking legal action for X to act or risk fines of up to A$782,500 ($508,000) for each day of non-compliance.

On Wednesday, the two sides returned to the Federal Court in Sydney, where X's lawyer Marcus Hoen explained that the social media platform had not changed its position and would fight what he called the commissioner's attempt to access “excessive jurisdiction”.

He said that

Christ the Good Shepherd Church, where the attack occurred, declined to comment when contacted by CNN.

Joan Gray, a lecturer in digital cultures at the University of Sydney, said the e-safety commissioner's attempt to extend removal orders beyond Australia's borders was not an overreach.

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“There's a long history of platforms working with policymakers, civil society and various groups to moderate content, and Musk's position is an aberration of that,” she told CNN.

Grzegorz Wajda/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Elon Musk attended an event organized by the European Jewish Association in Krakow, Poland, in January 2024.

Gray said removing harmful material in the jurisdiction where it was posted usually limits its spread and any potential harm done, though he acknowledged the system is not perfect.

Gray said Musk was trying to implement his stated belief in absolute freedom of expression in Australia, so as not to set a precedent for other platforms to follow.

“Having any individual control a communications platform that has the ability to reach a global audience in an unaccountable way is a huge problem,” she said.

Musk's battle with the Australian government is one of many the billionaire is waging against the authorities he accuses of imposing restrictions on freedom of expression.

Since Musk bought Company

In a statement on Wednesday, Australia's Cyber ​​Safety Commissioner said the takedown request was not designed to stifle discussion of the church attack.

“The takedown notice provided to

Musk's supporters praised the billionaire's stance in Australia and targeted his critics.

Lambie's office confirmed that there had been an increase in trolling on her Facebook account, and the Wednesday post was closed to comments in order to discourage further.

The court Another injunction granted X is required to conceal the violent material until May 10, when all parties return to court.