Security officers stood guard outside a Sydney church this month after a bishop was stabbed during a live broadcast of the service.

After intensifying his presence on the Brazilian political scene with criticism of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), businessman Elon Musk now finds himself at the center of another clash, this time with the Australian authorities. The conflict comes amid a court order requiring its social media platform, X, to remove videos related to the recent stabbing of a bishop, triggering a debate over free speech and online regulation.

The events began when videos of the attack on Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel during a religious service on April 15 began circulating on the X platform, racking up hundreds of thousands of views. In response, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner ordered X and other social media platforms to take down posts showing the video, citing concerns about the spread of violent content.

While other platforms promptly complied with the order and X blocked content for Australian users, company owner Elon Musk contested the decision. In a post on X, Musk argued against censorship, stating that deleting the videos in question could set dangerous precedents for government control of the internet.

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Musk said the platform would not delete the videos, which remain visible to users around the world except Australia, prompting a judge to issue an injunction against the company on Monday. That order was extended on Wednesday until a hearing on May 10, and X faces possible daily fines of about $509,000 for noncompliance.

Musk’s defiant stance represents a turnaround from previous pledges to turn X into a stronghold of free speech following his acquisition of Twitter in 2022. At the time, Musk had said that only content that violated local laws would be removed of the platform.

However, in recent months, Musk has repeatedly defied court orders to remove content from X, testing the limits of international legal systems and mobilizing his followers to pressure regulators around the world.

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In response to the standoff, an X spokesperson stated that the company was removing posts that praised or glorified the attack, but would allow posts that included commentary about the event to remain online.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, defended the decision to demand the video’s removal, arguing that it is part of her role to protect the interests of Australians and regulate violent and sexually exploitative content online, as provided for in a 2021 law. .Separately, the eSafety commissioner fined X about $384,000 in October for failing to provide the regulator with information about its efforts to combat online child exploitation.

However, Musk’s stance has received criticism, including from Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who described him as an “arrogant billionaire who thinks he is above the law.” Other Australian lawmakers are divided over the dispute, with some expressing support for Musk’s decision and others criticizing his defiant stance toward authorities.

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Bully around the world

The confrontation with Australian authorities follows a series of clashes between Musk and regulators in different parts of the world, highlighting the complexity of issues related to freedom of expression and the role of social media platforms in moderating online content.

The fight with Australian authorities comes shortly after the billionaire entered into a direct confrontation with Minister Alexandre de Moraes, of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), in recent weeks. At the time, Musk questioned Moraes about “why there is so much censorship in Brazil”, then stating that the “aggressive censorship in Brazil” violated “the law and the will of the people of Brazil”.

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

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

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

In March, X also withheld posting in Australia at the request of the eSafety Commissioner. The post condemned the appointment of a transgender person to the World Health Organization. The company said it is contesting the decision.

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The outcome of these clashes will likely have significant repercussions for the future of internet regulation and freedom of expression online.


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