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Australia Ends Legal Battle with Musk's X

Australia announced on Wednesday that it has ended its legal fight with Elon Musk’s social media platform, X
June 6, 2024

In a surprising turn of events, Australia has decided to halt its legal efforts against Elon Musk's social media platform, X, over the removal of graphic footage depicting a church stabbing in Sydney. This case was seen as a significant test of Australia's ability to enforce online safety standards on major tech platforms.

Julie Inman-Grant, the Commissioner of Australia’s online safety regulator, announced the decision on Wednesday. After considering various factors, she concluded that discontinuing the proceedings would ultimately benefit the online safety of Australians, particularly children. "Our primary objective was to prevent the spread of this violent footage, which could incite further violence and harm the community," Inman-Grant stated, defending the actions taken by Australia’s eSafety office.

X's Global Government Affairs team expressed relief, stating that the decision underscored the importance of freedom of speech. Elon Musk echoed this sentiment, posting on X, "Freedom of speech is worth fighting for."

The incident in question involved Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, who was stabbed during a livestreamed sermon in Sydney in mid-April. The attack, which police classified as a terrorist act, was widely shared online, garnering hundreds of thousands of views. In response, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner secured a temporary legal injunction to compel X to remove posts containing the violent footage.

Musk contested this court order, arguing it infringed on free speech. Last month, an Australian court sided with Musk's platform, declining to extend the temporary ban on the footage globally.

The legal clash sparked a heated exchange between Australian officials and Musk. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese criticized Musk as an "arrogant billionaire" who believes he is above Australian law. Musk responded on X, asserting, "I do not think I’m above the law. Does the PM think he should have jurisdiction over all of Earth?" He added that while X complies with local laws, it would be improper to impose one country's rulings globally.

Musk also labeled Inman-Grant as a "censorship commissar" for her efforts to ban the footage worldwide. This led to an online backlash against her, with Musk's followers issuing threats and exposing personal information about her family.

Australia’s decision to drop the case marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing debate over online safety and free speech. It highlights the complexities of regulating content on global platforms and the challenges faced by governments in balancing safety with freedom. As tech giants like X continue to operate across borders, these issues will likely persist, prompting further discussion and legal scrutiny in the future.

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