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Musk targets Australian senator, gun laws in deepening dispute over X stabbing content

In World
April 24, 2024

By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Elon Musk said an Australian senator should be jailed and suggested the country’s gun laws were meant to stop resistance against its “fascist government”, escalating his battle over a court order to remove video posts of a bishop being stabbed.

After Australia’s federal court told Musk’s platform X to temporarily stop showing video of a knife attack on an Assyrian bishop during a church service in Sydney a week earlier, Musk accused the country’s leaders of trying to censor the internet, prompting an outpouring of condemnation from lawmakers.

One senator, Jacqui Lambie, deleted her X account to protest publication of the footage and called for other politicians to do the same, saying Musk had “no social conscience or conscience whatsoever”. She added Musk should be jailed.

When an unnamed X user posted overnight that it was Lambie who “should be in jail for censoring free speech on X”, Musk replied to his 181 million followers, “Absolutely. She is an enemy of the people of Australia”.

A representative for Lambie, an independent senator for the small island state of Tasmania, declined to comment.

Targeting individuals is a regular strategy of Musk, the world’s third-wealthiest person, as he goes after governments which try to exert more oversight of content on social media.

In Brazil, Musk has been singling out a judge who told X to block some accounts as part of an investigation into digital militias, calling him a “dictator”.

Musk widened his attacks on Australia, including promoting a post from an unnamed but verified X user which said the country “disarmed all of their citizens in 1996 so that they cannot resist their fascist government”, a reference to a gun buy-back and registration scheme after the country’s worst mass shooting.

Musk responded with an exclamation mark.

Another anonymous, verified X account posted a screenshot of a text message purporting to be from a “friend living in Sydney”, saying “Evil has penetrated Australia’s government hard”. “Whoa!” Musk replied.

Home Affairs Minster Clare O’Neill said social media companies created “civil division, social unrest … and we’re not seeing a skerrick of responsibility taken”.

“Instead, we’re seeing megalomaniacs like Elon Musk going to court to fight for the right to show alleged terrorist content on his platform,” she added.

Police have charged a 16-year-old with a terrorism offence in the church attack. Videos online showed the youth, restrained by the congregation, shouting at the bishop for insulting Islam.

X and Musk have said they complied with the temporary takedown order by blocking it for Australians, but that they would appeal it. The footage remained visible on X in Australia on Wednesday.

At a hearing to decide whether the order should be permanent, a lawyer for regulator the e-Safety Commissioner said X appeared to have failed to comply with the temporary order but “the consequences of any non-compliance are for another day”.

A lawyer for X said the global takedown order involved “exorbitant jurisdiction”, and added that the company had received a statement from the Assyrian bishop attacked in the footage who wanted the video to remain online.

The federal court judge, Geoffrey Kennett, extended the temporary takedown order until another hearing on May 10.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Michael Perry)

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