Australian Leaders Condemn Musk as X Ignores Church Stabbing Posts

Officials clash over social media's role in public safety

by Zain ul Abedin
Australian Leaders Condemn Musk as X Ignores Church Stabbing Posts
© Omar Marques/Getty Images

In a contentious standoff, Australian officials, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, have openly criticized Elon Musk and his social media platform X for failing to remove specific posts related to a recent terror incident.

The confrontation escalated after X resisted orders from Australia's eSafety Commissioner to delete posts depicting a knife attack on a church bishop, claiming it as a matter of public concern and not merely content management.

On Monday, in Canberra, Prime Minister Albanese expressed his bafflement and concern over X's refusal to follow governmental directives. "The decision by X to non-comply is baffling. This isn't about curbing freedom of expression; it's about preventing the spread of dangerous misinformation that can be weaponized," he stated.

This incident brings to the forefront the ongoing global debate over the responsibilities of social media giants in regulating content while respecting freedom of speech. Over the weekend, Musk took to X to launch a series of attacks against Julie Inman Grant, Australia's eSafety Commissioner, labeling her the "Australian censorship commissar." Musk accused her of attempting to enforce global content bans, an action he deemed overreaching and indicative of censorship.

He shared posts suggesting that Grant was more interested in policing the internet than in facilitating open discourse.

Leaders Demand Accountability

Australian Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek also weighed in, criticizing Musk's approach to handling the situation.

She described him as an "egotistical billionaire" overly focused on personal freedoms at the expense of respecting victims' rights. "It's crucial that leaders in technology sectors show respect for those affected by the content shared on their platforms," Plibersek remarked.

Peter Dutton, leader of the country's opposition coalition, has also supported tighter regulations on social media content. Dutton has accused social platforms of behaving "above the law." Dutton has advocated for stringent measures to combat misinformation online, underscoring the need for legislative action.

Australian Agriculture Minister Murray Watt echoed this sentiment in a Sunday Sky News interview. "The public is tired of these narcissistic billionaires who act above the law," Watt declared. He emphasized the social obligation these companies have to their consumers, which they are currently failing to meet.

As the battle lines are drawn, X faces a daily fine of approximately $505,000 (A$785,000) for each day it defies the eSafety commissioner's orders. This situation highlights the ongoing global challenge of balancing regulatory compliance with the preservation of free speech in the digital age.