Elon Musk’s X sues Australian government over $800,000 take down order for ‘disparaging’ transgender post

Georgina Noack
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Elon Musk’s social media platform X is suing the Australian government after it was hit with an $800,000 fine over a ‘disparaging' post that targeted a transgender activist.
Elon Musk’s social media platform X is suing the Australian government after it was hit with an $800,000 fine over a ‘disparaging' post that targeted a transgender activist. Credit: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg

Elon Musk’s social media platform X is playing a legal tit-for-tat, suing the Australian government after being hit with an $800,000 fine over a post that made disparaging remarks about well-known transgender activist Teddy Cook.

X, formerly known as Twitter, was fined by the Australian eSafety Commissioner over a post made by Canadian user Chris Elston – known as ‘Billboard Chris’ – that criticised Mr Cook’s appointment to a World Health Organisation panel on transgender issues.

The post was reportedly shared thousands of times before eSafety Commissioner Julia Inmam Grant ordered X to delete the post and pay the six-figure fine.

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But The Australian reports that X has declared it will challenge the fine in a bid to “protect its user’s right to free speech”.

“Earlier this week, X was ordered by the Australian E-Safety Commissioner, subject to an approximately $800,000 AUD fine, to remove a user’s post. The post had criticised an individual appointed by the World Health Organisation to serve as an expert on transgender issues,” X Global Government Affairs said in a statement.

“X is withholding the post in Australia in compliance with the order but intends to file a legal challenge to the order to protect its user’s right to free speech.”

It is not the first time X has drawn the ire of the eSafety Commissioner. In September 2023, X was charged $610,500 for failing to respond adequately to a question about how it tackled the proliferation of child sexual abuse.

According to The Australian, X has not paid that fine and has sought a judicial review — just as it apparently will over this latest fine.

Legal proceedings began in the Federal Court in December and Ms Inman Grant said X now faced steeper penalties.

“The important thing to remember here is it was a fairly minor infringement notice that they could have paid for,” she said.

“They could be fined, depending on what the court finds, up to $782,000 a day from the time they were found to be out of compliance, which was March last year. This could be in the tens of millions of dollars.”

Billionaire Elon Musk spent $US44bn to buy Twitter in late 2022, saying at the time was “obsessed with the truth” and motivated to uphold free speech.

He told a TED conference in Vancouver in 2022 that having a “public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilisation.”

“It’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said.

“Twitter has become the de facto town square, so it’s important [that there is] the reality and perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.”

The news comes as The Nightly revealed in March that Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner wanted to haul tech bosses before a public inquiry Down Under love the proliferation of horrific online child sexual exploitation.

“It’s clear at the moment that they’re not doing enough,” Lorraine Finlay said.

“They’ve chosen not to provide the resources that are necessary to combat this and it’s important to make sure they’re aware of the human impacts that are occurring as a result.”

Earlier in the month it was also revealed that Ms Inman Grant had issued separate legal notices to six tech giants, forcing them to reveal what they’re doing to protect Australians from terrorist and violent extremist material and activity.

Meta, Google, WhatsApp, Telegram, Reddit and X will have 49 days to provide responses.

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