X CEO slams ‘overreach’ of Australia after face off with regulator

on May24
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Linda Yaccarino, CEO of X, speaking at the VivaTech conference in Paris, France. 

Benjamin Girette | Bloomberg | Getty Images

PARIS — X CEO Linda Yaccarino took a hit at Australia on Friday after a faceoff with online safety regulators.

The Elon Musk-owned social media platform X last week won a reprieve in Australia as a court refused to extend a temporary order blocking videos of a Sydney church stabbing.

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was stabbed during a livestreamed sermon that was widely circulated online, racking up hundreds of thousands of views. Following the incident, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, the country’s online watchdog, was granted a temporary legal injunction ordering X to hide posts that showed footage of the attack.

In a talk onstage at the VivaTech conference in Paris, Yaccarino accused Australia of overreach over the dispute.

“Where X operates to comply with the law, we are also not shy when we feel that there is a very obvious overreach, and where the citizens of that particular region are put at risk, or their access to information is compromised,” she said.

“What was recently going on in Australia, there was a need for X to stand up and protect people to make sure they maintained access to that information so they could make up their own minds,” she added.

On May 13, a federal court judge denied a bid by the eSafety Commissioner to extend an injunction to remove posts on X showing the violent attack of a priest in April.

“The good news is that the people prevailed,” Yaccarino, the former global advertising chief at CNBC parent company NBCUniversal, said onstage. “We’re happy to be that beacon of light and that place for truth.”

The incident sparked a clash between Musk and the Australian government. At the time, Musk criticized the move as an assault on free speech.

Australia’s eSafety regulator was not immediately available when contacted by CNBC for comment Friday.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in an interview on April 23 that Musk thinks “he’s above Australian law” and called him out for his “arrogance.”

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He said that “this isn’t about censorship,” but about “decency,” and that Musk should “show some.”

In response, Musk posted on X: “I do not think I’m above the law. Does the PM think he should have jurisdiction over all of Earth?”

The eSafety has previously said that it believes online safety “requires platforms to do everything practical and reasonable to minimize the harm it may cause to Australians.”

— CNBC’s Sumathi Bala contributed to this report.

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