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X Secures Court Victory in Battle With Australia’s Censorship, As Government Plots Inquiry

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In a victory for free speech, Elon Musk’s social media platform, X, gained a reprieve from an Australian court’s decision on Monday not to extend a temporary block on the videos of a church stabbing incident in Sydney.

The platform issued a challenge against the Australian government’s censorship demands, notably in a post on X, when Elon Musk questioned, “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?”

Local reports identified that an Australian federal court judge has refused the request of the country’s eSafety Commissioner to extend an injunction for the removal of posts on X, featuring footage of an April attack on a priest, Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel. The Bishop was assaulted in the middle of a sermon, an incident that garnered hundreds of thousands of views, before a temporary legal injunction was imposed on X at the behest of the eSafety Commissioner, advocating the removal of related video clips.

The situation has spurred a formidable discord between Musk and the Australian government, headlined by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. In a verbal tug-of-war over jurisdiction, the PM accused Musk of considering himself “above Australian law,” citing the compliance of other social platforms and the bipartisan approval of the measure.

The battle staged an escalation as Musk questioned Albanese on X, “Does the PM think he should have jurisdiction over all of Earth?” and cautioned against the extension of one country’s laws to others.

Accusing Musk’s free speech stance as “arrogance,” the PM suggested that the matter was not about censorship but about “decency.”

Australia’s government is setting up a parliamentary committee that will investigate social media companies over “misinformation” and other “harmful” content.

And the body’s definition of what that is will range from online scams to content deemed to be “extremist.” Another issue of interest will be Facebook (Meta) announcing it will pull out of a deal that supposedly helped promote “public interest” journalism.

What the deal, first struck in 2021 and now up for renewal, came down to is Australian legacy media making millions via a bargaining code based on the premise that social companies and their platforms essentially “exploit” content belonging to those outlets.

With this latest decision to launch an investigation, authorities in that country continue to pile pressure on the companies behind major social platforms, explaining these moves as the need to ascertain what influence they have on society, specifically, people’s mental health.

The committee’s inquiry will cover algorithms used by platforms, in terms of the content they surface.

This is consistent with both Australia’s long and short-term policies aimed at tightly controlling what content (and speech) is allowed on social sites.

Although the parliamentary inquiry that’s just been announced talks about the “influence” social media content has on people, in the wake of the attacks, statements made by the likes of Communications Minister Michelle Rowland essentially revealed that the “problem” was who controls what Australians are allowed to see.

“These social media companies have enormous reach and control over what Australians see with little to no scrutiny,” Rowland was quoted as saying, apparently not giving her compatriots the benefit of the doubt of being capable of critical thinking.

Instead, Australia’s authorities seem determined to do the thinking for them, by limiting their access to online content, while, critics might say, hiding behind haughty principles such as public interest journalism, harm reduction, democracy, and of course, “the war on disinformation.”

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, join Reclaim The Net.

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