Elon Musk Clashes With Australian Court Over Violent Videos on X

An Australian court on Wednesday extended an injunction ordering the social media platform X to remove videos depicting the recent stabbing of a bishop, setting the country’s judicial system up for a clash with the company’s owner, Elon Musk, who has denounced the court’s order as censorship.

Videos of the stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel during a church service on April 15 quickly started circulating on X, racking up hundreds of thousands of views. Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, a regulator overseeing online safety, ordered X and other social media platforms to remove posts showing the video the next day.

Other platforms complied, and X blocked the content for Australian viewers. But Mr. Musk said the platform would not delete the videos, which remain visible to users globally, prompting a judge to issue a temporary injunction against the company on Monday. That order was extended on Wednesday until a May 10 hearing, and X faces potential daily fines of roughly $509,000 for noncompliance.

“Our concern is that if ANY country is allowed to censor content for ALL countries, which is what the Australian ‘eSafety Commissar’ is demanding, then what is to stop any country from controlling the entire Internet?” Mr. Musk wrote in a Monday post on X. “We have already censored the content in question for Australia, pending legal appeal, and it is stored only on servers in the USA.”

The decision to leave the content online in defiance of local laws is an about-face for Mr. Musk, who acquired Twitter, now called X, in 2022 promising to turn it into a haven for free speech. The only content that would be removed, he said at the time, was that which violated local laws.

But in recent weeks, Mr. Musk has become more defiant regarding legal orders to remove content from X, testing the boundaries of international legal systems and rallying his fans to put pressure on regulators around the globe.

An X spokesman said the company was removing posts that praised or glorified the attack but would allow posts that included commentary about it to remain online.

“The removal notice given to X Corp does not relate to commentary, public debate or other posts about this event, even those which may link to extreme violent content,” a spokeswoman for the eSafety Commissioner said. “It only concerns the video of the violent stabbing attack at a church.”

A 2021 law granted the eSafety Commissioner a broad remit to police violent and sexually exploitative content online. The current commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, is a former Twitter employee.

Anthony Albanese, Australia’s prime minister, criticized Mr. Musk’s decision on Monday in an interview with Sky News. Mr. Musk is an “arrogant billionaire who thinks he is above the law” and has “chosen ego and showing violence over common sense,” Mr. Albanese said.

Other Australian lawmakers have been divided over the government’s effort to force X to remove the video. Some senators have said they would delete their X accounts in protest of Mr. Musk’s decision.

Senator Ralph Babet of the center-right United Australia party shared the video on his X account Monday along with an expletive aimed at Mr. Albanese’s government and the eSafety Commissioner. The post was viewed more than 64,000 times.

That same month, Mr. Musk sparred online with a European Union commissioner, Thierry Breton, who said X violated European law by disseminating illegal and misleading content about the Hamas attack against Israel.

This month, Mr. Musk threatened to release demands from a court in Brazil, which ordered the company to block accounts that it said shared hate speech and misinformation. Mr. Musk said the accounts belonged to politicians and journalists.

Mr. Musk’s threat to release the court’s demands was in defiance of an order to keep them private. “This judge has brazenly and repeatedly betrayed the constitution and people of Brazil. He should resign or be impeached,” Mr. Musk wrote on X on April 7. “Shame.”

Still, despite Mr. Musk’s objections, X has said it complied with the Brazilian orders to remove content, as it has in other situations. In February, the social media platform said it had withheld posts in India from journalists and activists about a protest by farmers, under threat of fines and the imprisonment of its local employees.

“However, we disagree with these actions and maintain that freedom of expression should extend to these posts,” X said in a post from its government affairs account.

In March, X also withheld a post in Australia at the behest of the eSafety Commissioner. The post denounced the appointment of a transgender person to the World Health Organization. The company has said it is challenging the decision.

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