A file photo of Peter Dutton
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has taken the side of X in the battle to remove a stabbing video. Image by Steven Saphore/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Dutton backs Musk on global policing of internet

Dominic Giannini April 26, 2024

The opposition says it supports Elon Musk’s argument that Australia can’t police the internet globally, as the week ended the way it began with a war of words and legal wrangling over graphic videos circulating on X.

Musk’s company, formerly known as Twitter, is locked in a legal battle with the eSafety commissioner to be able to keep graphic videos on its site showing the stabbing of a bishop in Sydney.

The company’s legal challenge stipulates it doesn’t believe the commissioner should have ordered the posts be banned in Australia as it doesn’t “encourage or provoke violence” and sits within public debate and discussion. 

It also opposes the commissioner’s request that the post be removed for all of X users, saying the Australian agency didn’t have the jurisdiction to dictate what overseas users saw. 

“X believes … governments should not be able to censor what citizens of other countries see online,” it said in a post on the platform overnight. 

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said while he’d love to say no child would be able to watch the video, “we can’t pretend that Australia can dictate to other countries around the world what people see within their countries”.

“We wouldn’t tolerate that here, that Russia could dictate what content is seen in Australia,” he told Nine’s Today Show on Friday. 

“We need to be realistic about what the options are here, we can’t police the whole internet across the world, but we can influence what happens in Australian society.

“We strongly support the eSafety commissioner’s position in relation to taking it down so that Australians can’t view it.”

Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley clarified earlier comments backing the commissioner, saying it was “patently obvious” Australian laws couldn’t apply internationally.

“Whether you’re a mum or dad in Uzbekistan, China, New Zealand or the UK, you don’t want to see a live stabbing or your kids to see it,” she told Seven’s Sunrise program.

“We all support the eSafety commissioner keeping Australians safe online but we recognise that we can’t be the internet police for the whole world.”

Bill Shorten.
 Bill Shorten says Australia isn’t trying to police the internet globally. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Cabinet minister Bill Shorten backed the commissioner wholeheartedly, saying Australia wasn’t trying to police the internet globally.

“We’re not trying to do that but this violent filth shouldn’t be accessible,” he said. 

“Elon Musk is not a free speech warrior – if he was, he’d allow Twitter to be able to put up the movements of his jet, which he doesn’t. 

“If he was really a free speech warrior, what’s he saying about his business interests in China when China disagrees with it?”

The eSafety commissioner has argued X’s move to just geoblock the content for an Australian audience rather than completely removing it from the site didn’t comply with its takedown order.

X and the commissioner are currently engaged in three separate legal battles, according to the ABC.