‘An absurd situation’: The Nightly’s De Ceglie argues social media platforms should be treated like publishers

Elon Musk and X twitter social media

Elon Musk has made headlines this week with his push to keep the vision of the near-fatal stabbing of a Sydney bishop mid-sermon up on X.

“Social media platforms are not responsible publishers,” The Nightly’s editor-in-chief Anthony DeCeglie has written in an editorial published on the site on Wednesday.

The piece responds to Elon Musk making headlines with his push to keep the vision of the near-fatal stabbing of a Sydney bishop mid-sermon up on X – despite Australia’s eSafety Commissioner telling Musk and the site that it must take down the footage. Musk claims keeping the footage up is an expression of free speech.

Graphic footage of the Bondi stabbing attacks circulated on X only days before.

DeCeglie points out that, “Australia has long had in place laws that set out the responsibilities of publishers.”

Publishers can’t publish material that is considered indecent or offensive, and if they do, can be held criminally responsible. There are exceptions made for content being used as art, within a clear set of guidelines.

“The provisions in our criminal codes dealing with such material are rarely used, because responsible publishers take seriously their obligations,” DeCeglie writes.

“The bosses of tech giants have proved again and again through their inaction that they don’t care how vile the material posted on their platforms is. Not their fault and not their problem, is their attitude.

“That’s despite the fact these platforms host vast amounts of material so vile, so obscene, to be beyond the comprehension of any decent person.”

DeCeglie argues that publishing the footage currently available on X would land a publisher with “significant criminal penalties,” but current laws don’t hold social media sites to the same standards.

“It’s an absurd situation. Our laws need to deal with these social media platforms as what they are – publishers.

“That comes with some hefty responsibilities both legal and moral. These organisations must start living up to them.”

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