Elon Musk sues eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant

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Billionaire tech titan Elon Musk is taking legal action against the Australian government after eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant forced his tech platform X to remove a post allegedly harmful to a transgender activist.

The furore kicked off in late February when Canadian man Chris Elston slammed the proposed appointment of Australian trans activist Teddy Cook to a World Health Organisation panel on healthcare delivery.

Mr Elston, who goes by the X name Billboard Chris, took aim at WHO’s panel of experts hired to draft policy regarding transpeople, while also misgendering Mr Cook and making other remarks labelled by the eSafety Commissioner as “degrading”.

The post was widely viewed and shared in Australia until Ms Inman Grant issued a take-down notice to X on March 22.

“An ordinary reasonable person would conclude that it is likely that the material is intended to cause serious harm to the complainant,” the letter states.

“This is because the material misgenders the complainant and reiterates that this point is deliberate.

“The material also contains a statement that implicitly equates transgender identity with a psychiatric condition.

“This statement is deliberately degrading and suggests that all transgender people – and in this case the complainant in particular – have something that is ‘wrong’ about their psychology owing to their gender identity.”

The commissioner threatened X with a fine of up to $782,500 for any refusal to remove the post within 24 hours.

X has complied with the order and the post is no longer viewable in Australia.

But the company hit back on March 30 and announced it would file a legal challenge to Ms Inman Grant’s order.

“Earlier this week, X was ordered by the Australian E-Safety Commissioner, subject to an approximately $800,000 AUD fine, to remove a user’s post,” the company’s Global Government Affairs division said on X.

“The post had criticised an individual appointed by the World Health Organisation to serve as an expert on transgender issues.

“X is withholding the post in Australia in compliance with the order but intends to file a legal challenge to the order to protect its user’s right to free speech.”

The Free Speech Union of Australia has also criticised Ms Inman Grant’s move, writing in a letter delivered to the commissioner that “Australians have a right to freely express their political opinions”.

“We must ask that the eSafety Commissioner now properly explain why they chose to censor this particular post,” the letter reads.

“We are particularly concerned that the decision may well be improper discrimination based on political viewpoint.”

In a statement from Wednesday afternoon, an eSafety spokesman said eSafety offered a reporting scheme for adult cyber abuse as part of the Online Safety Act.

“This gives Australian adults who are targeted by seriously harmful online abuse somewhere to turn, if an online service provider fails to act on reports made to them by users,” the spokesman said.

“Tech platforms do not always consistently enforce their own rules or hateful conduct policies, which is why parliament voted to establish the Adult Cyber Abuse Scheme … so that eSafety could serve as a safety net for Australian adults facing the most grievous forms of online harassment and abuse.

“The Act defines adult cyber abuse as material targeting a particular Australian adult that is both intended to cause serious harm and is also menacing, harassing or offensive in all circumstances.

“If the material only meets one of these two criteria; for example, if the post is offensive but is found to not be intended to cause serious harm, it will not be considered adult cyber abuse under the Act.

“Under the Act, the term ‘adult cyber abuse’ is reserved for the most severely abusive material intended to cause serious psychological or physical harm.

“This would include material which sets out realistic threats, places people in real danger, is excessively malicious or is unrelenting.

“eSafety may consider context and material collectively when assessing its overall seriousness.

“Importantly, the adult cyber abuse scheme does not regulate hurt feelings, purely reputational damage, bad online reviews, strong opinions or banter.”

The WHO has proposed a 15-member panel to write up guidelines on health care for trans and gender diverse people.

In its profile of Mr Cook, the WHO writes: “Teddy Cook has over 15 years of experience in community health and non-government sectors.

“Teddy is ACON’s Director of LGBTQ+ Community Health, overseeing client services and LGBTQ+ health, equity, and harm reduction programs.”

The furore comes in the same week top-selling author JK Rowling taunted the British police to arrest her following the passage of new hate crime laws in the Scottish parliament.

Ms Rowling said the laws, which proponents claim would protect transgender people from bigotry, would degrade freedom of speech and women’s rights.

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