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The complex conundrum of censorship

There’s an interesting free speech and censorship stoush on the go across the ditch.

The Australian eSafety commissioner is demanding that social media platform X [formerly Twitter] remove videos of a violent stabbing at a church in Sydney almost two weeks ago.

X agreed to prevent access to the content in Australia, but that hasn’t satisfied the commissioner, who is pushing for the videos to be subject to a “global takedown order”.

That appears to be a bridge too far for X owner Elon Musk, who has stated X will challenge the takedown order.

“This was a tragic event, and we do not allow people to praise it or call for further violence,” an X spokesperson stated.

“There is a public conversation happening about the event, on X and across Australia, as is often the case when events of major public concern occur.

“While X respects the right of a country to enforce its laws within its jurisdiction, the eSafety Commissioner does not have the authority to dictate what content X’s users can see globally.

“We will robustly challenge this unlawful and dangerous approach in court.

“Global take-down orders go against the very principles of a free and open internet and threaten free speech everywhere.”

Australia’s prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is not impressed with X’s position.

Referring to Musk, Albanese has opined to Aussie media that, “This is a bloke who’s chosen ego and showing violence over common sense. I think that Australians will shake their head when they think that this billionaire is prepared to go to court, fighting for the right, to sow division and to show violent videos, which are very distressing.

“He is in social media, but he has a social responsibility, in order to have that social licence. And what has occurred here is that the eSafety commissioner has made very sensible suggestions. Other social media companies have complied, without complaint. But this bloke thinks he’s above the Australian law, that he’s above common decency.”

For his part, in true trollish form, Musk has posted on his platform that he’d “like to take a moment to thank the PM for informing the public that this platform is the only truthful one”.

Complicating matters somewhat is the victim of the knife attack, an Iraqi-born Assyrian Christian bishop who streams all his sermons on the internet and lost an eye in the assault, which is being treated by Aussie authorities as a terrorist act [the 16-year-old alleged assailant reportedly said during the assault, “He pissed me off, every single video is about my Prophet… If he just spoke about his religion, I wouldn’t have come”].

You see, Bishop Mar Mari Emmanual has come down on the side of Musk, free speech, religious freedom, and the right of Australians to consume content linked to the attack.

“Every human being has the right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion … I should not worry for my life to be exposed to threat or to be taken away,” he stated [in part] on his return to the pulpit.

“For us to say that free speech is dangerous, that free speech cannot be possible in a democratic country, I’m yet to fathom this.

“… to say that because of this freedom of speech, it is causing dramas and dilemmas, therefore everything should be censored, then where is democracy?”

It’s an interesting conundrum, isn’t it? Where do you think the line is?

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