Elon Musk’s X faces massive fine as Anthony Albanese declares war on ‘arrogant billionaire’

Dan Jervis-Bardy
The Nightly
A fired-up Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has labelled Elon Musk an ‘arrogant billionaire’ in an escalation of the Federal Government’s social media war with the X founder.
A fired-up Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has labelled Elon Musk an ‘arrogant billionaire’ in an escalation of the Federal Government’s social media war with the X founder. Credit: The Nightly

Elon Musk’s X could be slapped with a massive fine as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declares war on the “arrogant billionaire” for flouting Australia’s social media laws.

But while Mr Albanese’s focus is on Mr Musk, the church stabbing video that ignited the feud continues to circulate on other platforms — including Facebook.

The online safety watchdog has all but conceded it cannot entirely erase all violent footage from social media.

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A global row over free speech, censorship and online safety has erupted as Mr Musk battles the Federal Government to publish footage of last week’s attack on Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel inside a western Sydney church.

The eSafety Commissioner secured a temporary court injunction earlier this week forcing X to pull down the “extremely violent” content from its platform.

United Australia Party senator Ralph Babet was publicly defying the ruling on Tuesday, republishing the video and declaring “I WILL NOT REMOVE IT” in an act Communications Minister Michelle Rowland described as “appalling”.

Screenshots of a Facebook search for videos of the attack on Christian Assyrian bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel.
Screenshots of a Facebook search for videos of the attack on Christian Assyrian bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel. Credit: Screenshot

The online safety watchdog expects the case to proceed to a full hearing, where it will seek a permanent injunction and civil penalties against Mr Musk’s platform.

The maximum penalty for non-compliance with a removal notice is $782,500 per contravention, which is calculated based on the number of days an offending post is left online.

Mr Musk — the world’s third-wealthiest person according to the Forbes rich list —is framing his fight with Australian regulators as a landmark case for internet freedom.

In a series of posts on Tuesday, Mr Musk argued that if the Federal Government got its way then individual countries would be able to control the “entire internet”.

“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?” he posted.

He also posted a meme of a child deciding between two paths: one which led to X and “free speech” and “truth”, and an alternative which led to “censorship” and “propaganda” from the other social media companies.

“Don’t take my word for it, just ask the Australian PM!,” he wrote.

Mr Albanese said the Federal Government would “do what’s necessary” to fight Mr Musk, who he described as an “arrogant billionaire who thinks he’s above the laws”.

The eSafety Commissioner also issued Meta – which owns Facebook and Instagram – with a formal notice to remove videos of the stabbing a day after the attack.

The watchdog on Tuesday confirmed Meta was in the clear after it “quickly removed” the material from its platform.

However, videos of the stabbing were easy to find on Facebook when The Nightly searched on Tuesday.

The only hurdle to viewing it was a page that asked, “Are you sure you want to continue?” and warned the search “may include content that’s graphic or violent, which may be sensitive to some people”.

The Nightly understands only the specific content listed in the watchdog’s takedown notice was required to be removed, meaning other versions of the video can still be shared.

In a statement on Tuesday, the commissioner’s spokesperson conceded it was “difficult to eradicate damaging content from the internet entirely”, particularly after it is shared among users.

“eSafety requires platforms to do everything practical and reasonable to minimise the harm it may cause to Australians and the Australian community,” the spokesperson said.

Ms Rowland urged social media users to avoid sharing or engaging with the video if it appeared on their feeds.

“It is distressing and may very well cause harm to vulnerable Australians — including children,” she said.

“If you see this content online, report it to the platform and eSafety to ensure our regulator can do its job.”

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