Home Tech Elon Musk replies to post by far-right Austrian linked to Christchurch terrorist after X account restored

Elon Musk replies to post by far-right Austrian linked to Christchurch terrorist after X account restored

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Elon Musk replies to post by far-right Austrian linked to Christchurch terrorist after X account restored

A far-right Austrian who received donations from and communicated with the Christchurch terrorist before the 2019 attack has had his X account restored, with X owner Elon Musk responding to one of his tweets.

The founder of the so-called identity movement, Martin Sellner, who advocates the superiority of European ethnic groups, was banned from Twitter in 2020 under previous management as well as dozens of other accounts linked to the movement amid criticism of the platform’s handling of extremist content.

Sellner was subject to searches by Austrian authorities in 2019 on suspicion of cooperating with Christchurch terrorist Brenton Tarrant and being part of a terrorist organization. Sellner has denied any involvement in the attack.

It was revealed that Tarrant donated €1,500 (A$2,487) to Sellner’s identity organization, and that the two exchanged friendly emails in 2018, including Sellner inviting Tarrant to join him for a beer or a coffee if he ever came to Austria.

Tarrant traveled to Austria in 2018, but Sellner denies the two men met.

Sellner praised Musk for restoring his X account last week, where he now has a blue checkmark associated with paid accounts and has 51,000 followers.

“I’m happy and grateful to be back on Twitter/X. I would especially like to thank Musk for making this platform more open again,” he said, according to an English translation of his tweet. “I hope the trend continues and everyone who was banned comes back.”

After Sellner posted a video showing Swiss police interrupting an event he was speaking at in the Swiss canton of Aargau and stating that he had been banned from Aargau for two months, Musk responded: “Is this legal ?

Last month, it was reported that Germany was considering banning Sellner from entering the country.

Dr Josh Roose, an extremism expert at Deakin University, said Sellner’s account is the latest in a long line of far-right accounts, including the head of the National Socialist Network in Australia, allowed to return to X under Musk.

“Coincidentally, they all interacted with Brenton in some way,” he said.

“Now that these groups have come back and they’ve been allowed back on the platform, they’re all following each other and connecting internationally. So this also allowed the movement to create links and make contacts.

X has been contacted for comment. In a fiery interview with former CNN anchor Don Lemon this week, Musk defended the retention of several anti-Semitic and racist messages on the platform, saying they were not illegal.

“So, Don, you like censorship, is that what you say?” » Musk said.

Lemon responded that he believed in moderation, to which Musk replied: “Moderation is a propaganda word for censorship.”

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If a post was illegal, “we’re going to take it down,” Musk said, adding that if it wasn’t breaking the law, “we put our thumb on the scale or we were censors.”

Roose said that while this may fit his reading of free speech in the United States, the accounts were originally removed for spreading hate and attempting to inspire fear online and that nothing had changed.

“While this is not surprising, it simply signals…that this is an enabling influence that provides these movements with a platform to spread hatred.” »

In January, Australia’s Electronic Security Commissioner Julie Inman Grant revealed that, based on data provided to her by X between November 2022 and May 2023, X had reinstated 6,103 Australian accounts, of which 194 had been suspended for violating what was then X’s hateful conduct policy. .

“A number of these reinstated users had previously been banned for online hate,” Inman Grant said at the time. If you let the worst offenders return while dramatically reducing trust and security staff… there are obvious concerns about the implications for user safety.

X was among half a dozen tech platforms that received legal notices from Australia’s online safety regulator this week asking how they were taking action against extremist and terrorism-related content on their platforms. Grant said video of the Christchurch massacre was still circulating online.

Platforms could be fined if they do not respond to notifications within 49 days.

Roose said governments were reluctant to take “real action”, and while there had been speculation that Australia would follow the United States in a potential ban on TikTok over security concerns, he did not. There was no real threat of X being banned for failing to combat extremism on the platform. , if that’s what eSafety reviews find.

“It comes down to the willingness to take decisive action based on leadership and an understanding of fundamentals and citizenship, because we can’t get by in real life, we get by online and that’s it. is what is corrosive to democracy… which is supposed to be founded. on mutual respect and recognition.

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