Saturday, April 27, 2024

Brendan O'Neill: Elon Musk vs the globalist censors

Australia’s demand that X take down a violent video clip in every country in the world is wildly authoritarian.

I’m in Australia at the moment, which means I am bound by Australian law. If I do something here that this great democratic nation has decreed to be a crime, I’m in hot water. And rightly so. Yet when I jet back to Britain in a week’s time, that will no longer be the case, right? Surely no Aussie lawmaker, no Aussie cop, no Aussie bureaucrat will enjoy jurisdiction over the behaviour of this free Brit some 10,000 miles away? Actually, they might, if Australia’s ‘eSafety commissioner’ has her way.

Australia’s top thoughtcop – let’s call a spade a spade – is one Julie Inman Grant. She has the power under the Online Safety Act 2021 to demand the removal of ‘Class 1 material’ from the internet. That’s anything that depicts ‘revolting or abhorrent phenomena [that] offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety’. The vast bulk of what gets wiped off the web is child porn. Sometimes clips of violence are culled, too. Right now, Ms Inman Grant is seeking to excise a video of a stabbing. But here’s the twist: she doesn’t only want to block Aussie eyes from seeing it, but everyone’s eyes. Everyone in the world. All of us. Tyrant much?

The clip shows the horrible assault on the Assyrian bishop, Mar Mari Emmanuel. He was stabbed in his church in Sydney on 15 April allegedly by a teenage boy yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’. Emmanuel suffered grisly injuries but survived. The livestream of his sermon captured the stabbing and inevitably, it went viral. Ms Inman Grant has instructed both X (formerly Twitter) and Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram) to take the clip down – everywhere. Meta has complied, but X has pushed back, on the sound basis that the Oz government should not get to dictate what every soul on Earth may see.

Elon Musk, boss of X and scourge of censors, has actually kind of complied with the commissioner’s instructions. He’s ‘geoblocked’ tweets that show the stabbing, meaning people in Oz can’t see them. Job done: Aussie censors don’t want Aussie folk watching this clip, and now they can’t. But that’s not good enough for Australia’s overlords of online safety. Australians could still use a VPN – a Virtual Private Network – to trick the internet into thinking they’re somewhere other than Australia and thus see the clip. So, they say, X must erase it everywhere, in every territory, for every population.

It is a truly extraordinary demand. Even the coverage in Musk-sceptical media outlets cannot help but capture the chilling nature of this act of global censorship. The eSafety commissioner is furious that clips of the stabbing are ‘still accessible globally’, reports the Guardian. She expects her rulings to ‘cover overseas content’ as well as Aussie content, says the ABC. In short, this local bureaucrat lusts after global power. She seeks dominion over all earthlings. You feel like you’ve wandered into Oceania.

Imagine the precedent it will set if the eSafety commissioner wins out over X (they’re currently warring in court). Might other governments likewise demand the global obliteration of social-media clips they consider offensive? Perhaps the Chinese government will instruct platforms everywhere to take down clips of violence from Tiananmen Square in 1989 – you know, to keep Chinese citizens ‘safe’ from such politically troublesome images. Maybe Iran will issue takedown orders for clips of its revolutionary guards visiting their theocratic violence on anti-hijab protesters. Giving local functionaries global power is a recipe for tyranny.

Fragile officialdom has long argued that the worldwide web threatens national sovereignty. This Wild West of content might infect our citizens’ hearts and minds with vile stuff, they say. And so they erect great firewalls to keep it out. And yet, the Oz v Musk case suggests it’s the web-wary censors of the 21st-century technocracy who are the true menace to democracy. Australia’s haughty insistence that a vid be erased everywhere shows staggering disregard for the laws and norms of other nations. It would make us the colonial subjects of an eSafety commissioner on the other side of the world. Our eyes would be covered by the long arm of Aussie bureaucracy. It is unnatural, irrational and unjust for any government to presume the authority to control what the citizens of other nations may see and say.

Call me a cynic, but I don’t believe the Aussie government cares all that much about this one video. Apart from anything else, huge numbers of Australians have seen it already – and they didn’t morally collapse as a consequence. Also, Bishop Emmanuel himself has said the video should not be taken down – surely his opinion counts? No, it seems to me that officialdom Down Under is exploiting this awful incident to try to clip the wings of social media, to bring to heel these platforms that are notoriously difficult to control. This spat is a Trojan Horse through which a government hopes to restore its censorial authority over modern media and us, its allegedly fragile users.

Witness the speed with which this clash morphed into a bigger discussion about the supposed scourge of unfettered speech online. They’re now arguing over ‘misinformation’. Australian PM Anthony Albanese thundered: ‘I find it extraordinary that X chose not to comply and are trying to argue their case… Australians want misinformation and disinformation to stop.’ What is he wittering on about? This clip is not ‘misinformation’. It shows a real event, that really happened.

That Australia’s rulers flit with such ease from blather about keeping people ‘safe’ from violent content to handwringing over ‘misinformation’ exposes their true motivation – not the protection of citizens from ‘harm’ but the protection of officialdom itself from images and ideas that make it feel uncomfortable. In this case, it seems pretty clear that the allegedly Islamist nature of the attack is a key factor in the government’s desire to memory-hole footage of it. They don’t want Australians having an open, frank discussion about radical Islam and the social disarray it springs from. Hide the video, stop the debate.

The very idea of an eSafety commissioner should horrify all who love liberty. It is not government’s job to keep us ‘safe’ from images and ideas. It is its job to keep us safe from threats and violence, but they’re often so busy policing words that they forget to police crime. The idea that every human beings’ right to see an image of a suspected terror attack must be revoked in order to protect the feelings of some people in Australia is the definition of authoritarianism. Global freedom sacrificed at the altar of presumed sensitivity. Musk must prevail in his war with Australia’s bureaucracy.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and blogs regularly on Spiked where this article was sourced.


Rob Beechey said...

Bravo Brendan. The Authoritarian weapon of choice is the corrupt MSM that shamelessly complies with their dictatorial wishes. “Freedom of speech are weapons of war” screeched comrade Ardern to a small group at the UN’s general assembly. Elon Musk’s incredibly generous gift to mankind created an international communication platform free from political interference. This gift is being challenged by those that try to control their version of the Podium of Truth.

Anonymous said...

I point out per Rob's comments above that Jacinda's speech was condemned in editorials around the world but didn't make the News in New Zealand. A very sinister time for New Zealand.

Madame Blavatsky said...

"Ms Inman Grant has instructed both X (formerly Twitter) and Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram) to take the clip down – everywhere. Meta has complied, but X has pushed back, on the sound basis that the Oz government should not get to dictate what every soul on Earth may see."

I wonder what Brendon O'Neil (an avowedly staunch, even zealous, supporter of Jews and Israel) has to say about Elon Musk in recent months being taken to Auschwitz accompanied by Ben Shapiro for a re-education program and struggle session after Musk was deemed by the ADL and others (self-appointed and influential "trusted flaggers of hate" for the social media giants) to have been altogether too lax in his censoring criticism of Jews and Israel?

Probably not much, I'd imagine.

O'Neil no doubt wants us all to see footage of Muslims doing violence, because that helps justify the actions of his beloved Israel, and helps otherwise disinterested Westerners to get behind the Zionists.

Anonymous said...

whether you like musk/twitter or not, there's a valid question that australia's govt needs to answer: if iran uses its country's laws to tell musk/twitter that any non-islamic content should be removed not just for people in iran but for the entire world, should compliance be expected?

Anonymous said...

Hat tip Madame.