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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Australian Judge: X Must Face Hate Speech Complaint

MELBOURNE, Australia — An Australian judge has ruled that the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, is subject to a state’s anti-discrimination law despite not having an office in Australia.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Judge Ann Fitzgerald announced in a decision made public on Friday that her court has jurisdiction over X Corp. in a hate speech complaint. This ruling allows the Queensland Human Rights Commission to hear an allegation that X violated Queensland anti-discrimination law by not removing or hiding anti-Muslim hate speech.

The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network, which filed the case against Twitter in June 2022 before billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk acquired and rebranded the platform, praised the decision as “precedent-setting.”

Fitzgerald’s decision “paved the way for social media companies to be held accountable for locally accessible content that may breach Australian hate speech laws,” the network stated.

“This is the first such legal victory against a social media company under Australian vilifications laws, which may bear consequences to all social media companies operating in Australia,” it said.

X and its Australia-based lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

X has refused to remove material that the network alleges denigrates, dehumanizes and demonizes the Muslim community, portraying Muslims as an existential threat.

The complaint deals with material including video and photos that can be accessed through a link posted on X by an alleged far-right anti-Muslim conspiracy blog authored by an American citizen. The material is then commented on, copied and shared.

The tribunal has accepted the network’s request that the blog and its principal author not be identified for fear of “adverse consequences” for Muslims.

X had argued that the tribunal had no jurisdiction over the company because it had no presence in Queensland and the “impugned conduct” took place outside Queensland.

Fitzgerald disagreed, ruling X was “present in Queensland because it provides a service in Queensland and in my view carries on business in Queensland.”

“The impugned conduct took place in Queensland whether one terms the impugned conduct an ‘effect’ or actual conduct,” she added.

Fitzgerald made her ruling on Tuesday but lawyers did not release her reasons to the public until Friday.

Musk is also fighting in Australian Federal Court a notice by an Internet safety watchdog to take down video of a 16-year-old boy allegedly stabbing an Assyrian Orthodox bishop in a Sydney church on April 15.

X agreed to geoblock from Australian users images of what Australian authorities have declared a terrorist act.

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