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Heartland Daily News

Aussies Back Down on Blocking ‘X’ Crime Video

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From Heartland Daily News

By J.D. Tuccille

Aussies back down on blocking ‘X’ video of a crime after realizing they would have to censor the world.

In a welcome development for people who care about liberty, Australia’s government suspended its efforts to censor the planet. The country’s officials suffered pushback from X (formerly Twitter) and condemnation by free speech advocates after attempting to block anybody, anywhere from seeing video of an attack at a Sydney church. At least for the moment, they’ve conceded defeat based, in part, on recognition that X is protected by American law, making censorship efforts unenforceable.

“I have decided to discontinue the proceedings in the Federal Court against X Corp in relation to the matter of extreme violent material depicting the real-life graphic stabbing of a religious leader at Wakeley in Sydney on 15 April 2024,” the office of Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, announced last week. “We now welcome the opportunity for a thorough and independent merits review of my decision to issue a removal notice to X Corp by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.”

The free speech battle stems from the stabbing in April of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel and Father Isaac Royel at an Orthodox Christian Church by a 16-year-old in what is being treated as an Islamist terrorist incident. Both victims recovered, but Australian officials quickly sought to scrub graphic video footage of the incident from the internet. Most social media platforms complied, including X, which geoblocked access to video of the attack from Australia pending an appeal of the order.

But Australian officials fretted that their countrymen might use virtual private networks (VPNs) to evade the blocks. The only solution, they insisted, was to suppress access to the video for the whole world. X understandably pushed back out of fear of the precedent that would set for the globe’s control freaks.

Global Content Battle

“Our concern is that if ANY country is allowed to censor content for ALL countries, which is what the Australian ‘eSafety Commissar’ is demanding, then what is to stop any country from controlling the entire Internet?” responded X owner Elon Musk.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) also argued that “no single country should be able to restrict speech across the entire internet” as did the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE). The organizations jointly sought, and received, intervener status in the case based on “the capacity for many global internet users to be substantially affected.”

In short, officials lost control over a tussle they tried to portray as a righteous battle by servants of the people against, in the words of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, “arrogant billionaire” Elon Musk. Instead, civil libertarians correctly saw it as a battle for free speech against grasping politicians who aren’t content to misgovern their own country but reach for control over people outside their borders.

Worse for them, one of their own judges agreed.

“The removal notice would govern (and subject to punitive consequences under Australian law) the activities of a foreign corporation in the United States (where X Corp’s corporate decision-making occurs) and every country where its servers are located; and it would likewise govern the relationships between that corporation and its users everywhere in the world,” noted Justice Geoffrey Kennett in May as he considered the eSafety commissioner’s application to extend an injunction against access to the stabbing video. “The Commissioner, exercising her power under s 109, would be deciding what users of social media services throughout the world were allowed to see on those services.”

He added, “most likely, the notice would be ignored or disparaged in other countries.”

American Speech Protections Shield the World

This is where the U.S. First Amendment and America’s strong protections for free speech come into play to thwart Australian officials’ efforts to censor the world.

“There is uncontroversial expert evidence that a court in the US (where X Corp is based) would be highly unlikely to enforce a final injunction of the kind sought by the Commissioner,” added Kennett. “Courts rightly hesitate to make orders that cannot be enforced, as it has the potential to bring the administration of justice into disrepute.”

Rather than have his government exposed as impotently overreaching to impose its will beyond its borders, Kennett refused to extend the injunction.

Three weeks later, with free speech groups joining the case to argue against eSafety’s censorious ambitions, the agency dropped its legal case pending review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

“We are pleased that the Commissioner saw the error in her efforts and dropped the action,” responded David Greene and Hudson Hongo for EFF. “Global takedown orders threaten freedom of expression around the world, create conflicting legal obligations, and lead to the lowest common denominator of internet content being available around the world, allowing the least tolerant legal system to determine what we all are able to read and distribute online.”

But if the world escaped the grasp of Australia’s censors, the country’s residents may not be so lucky.

Domestic Censorship Politics

The fight between eSafety and X “isn’t actually about the Wakeley church stabbing attacks in April — it’s about how much power the government ultimately hands the commissioner once it’s finished reviewing the Online Safety Act in October,” Ange Lavoipierre wrote for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“The video in dispute in the case against X has been used, in my opinion, as a vehicle for the federal government to push for powers to compel social media companies to enforce rules of misinformation and disinformation on their platforms,” agrees Morgan Begg of the free-market Institute of Public Affairs, which opposes intrusive government efforts to regulate online content. “The Federal Court’s decision highlights the government’s fixation with censorship.”

That is, the campaign to force X to suppress video of one crime is largely about domestic political maneuvering for power. But it comes as governments around the world—especially that of the European Union—become increasingly aggressive with their plans to control online speech.

If the battle between Australia’s eSafety commissioner and X is any indication, the strongest barrier to international censorship lies in countries—the U.S. in particular—that vigorously protect free speech. From such safe havens, authoritarian officials and their grasping content controls can properly be “ignored or disparaged.”

Originally published by the Reason Foundation. Republished with permission.

Heartland Daily News

Biden, Trump Spar Over Inflation, Border, More in First Presidential Debate

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From Heartland Daily News

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump grappled over inflation, illegal immigration, abortion and more during the first debate of this election cycle Thursday night in Atlanta.

A Quinnipiac poll released the day before the debate shows Trump with a 49%-45% lead over Biden, showing Biden needed to turn the tide Thursday night. But throughout the debate, Biden showed moments of murmuring, trailing off or seeming to lose his train of thought.

“I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence,” Trump said early in the debate. “I really don’t think he knows what he said either.”

Questions have surrounded Biden, 81, for a growing number stumbles and miscues in recent months.

CNN’s Jake Tapper, one of the debate’s two co-hosts, began by pointing to the rise of prices under Biden’s tenure, a 20% increase in food prices and a 30% increase for housing.

“Everything was rockin’ good,” Trump said, touting the economy, lack of wars and more during his term. “The only jobs [Biden] created are for illegal immigrants and bounceback jobs,” referring to jobs created by ending the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Biden defended himself, claiming Trump caused inflation, and touted the economic recovery after the COVID lockdown era. Biden also touted his work to lower the costs of prescription drugs.

Abortion, which is expected to be a major issue this election, took a prime spot in the debate. Biden promised to restore Roe v. Wade federal protections and blasted Trump, saying he would sign a conservative nationwide abortion ban.

Trump said he agreed with the recent U.S. Supreme Court issue allowing the abortion pill and blasted Biden and Democrats for their support of Roe v. Wade, saying it allows late term abortion. Trump argued the issue should go to the states.

Both candidates traded barbs throughout the debate. Biden called Trump a convicted felon and said he has the “morals of an alley cat.” Trump was convicted last month on 34 felony counts related to falsifying business documents to cover up hush money payments to a former porn actress.

“Everything he does is a lie,” Trump shot back later in the debate.

Trump repeatedly veered the debate back toward illegal immigration, crime committed by illegal immigrants, and the impact of migrants on entitlement programs.

Trump blasted Biden on the southern border crisis, saying that “because of [Biden’s] ridiculous, insane and very stupid policies” Americans are being killed, calling it “Biden migrant crime.”

Trump said the flood of illegal immigrants are bankrupting entitlement programs in the U.S.

“Our veterans are living on the street and these people are living in luxury hotels,” Trump said. “I’ve never seen such anger in our country before.

“He wants our country to either be destroyed or he wants to pick up those people as voters,” Trump continued.

When questioned about his role in the Jan. 6 storming of the Captiol, Trump pointed out that he called on protesters to act “peacefully and patriotically” and offered 10,000 National Guard troops for security prior to the protests but former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser turned them down.

Biden said the Jan. 6 protesters who have been prosecuted deserve to be in jail, but Trump defended many of them, saying some of them are “so innocent” and that rioters in other cities like Portland did not go to jail.

The debate was moderated by CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash in Atlanta.

This debate is an antecedent to two major political conventions, The Republican National Convention (RNC) and Democratic National Convention (DNC), which are scheduled for July and August, respectively.

Thursday night marked Trump and Biden’s first debate against each other in four years. The first presidential debate between them took place in Sept. 2020, during the time when Trump was still in office as U.S. president. Trump and Biden were scheduled to have a second debate on Oct. 15 2020, which ultimately was canceled. The final Trump-Biden debate of 2020 occurred on Oct. 22 2020.

Another debate is expected between the two candidates this election cycle on Sept. 10.

Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.

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Agriculture

The Netherlands Reverses Host of Climate Policies

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From Heartland Daily News

Agriculture-focused polices the new government is reversing include the previous government’s forced buyout and retirement of farms to cut fertilizer use and associated nitrogen emissions

The Netherlands recently elected a new right-of-center government which is downplaying climate alarm and European Union (EU)-driven climate policies that harm the country’s residents and agricultural producers.

“Geert Wilders, a prominent figure in Dutch politics, has led a coalition that marks a decisive shift in the Netherlands’ approach to climate policy. Wilders, often dubbed the “Dutch Trump,” formed a new government that includes the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB),” writes Charles Rotter at Watts Up With That. Rotter quotes a report in The Telegraph on the political right’s rise in the Netherlands and what it means for climate policy:

The Netherlands will tear up rules forcing homeowners to buy heat pumps as part of a war on net zero by Geert Wilders and the Dutch farmers’ party. Six months after his shock election victory, Mr. Wilders this week struck an agreement to usher in a Right-wing coalition government of four parties. “We are writing history,” he said as he announced the program for the new government.

Among the EU-endorsed climate policies Wilders’ coalition government is rescinding is the heat pump mandate, which would have forced homeowners to switch to expensive, inefficient hybrid heat pumps  from traditional air conditioning and heating systems.

The EU had established a goal of installing a minimum of 10 million new heat pumps by 2027 as part of its 2050 net-zero ambition, a plan the previous Dutch government had endorsed and imposed. As The Telegraph reported, the Dutch government’s heat pump mandate was intended to drive “down Dutch household use of natural gas for heating, which is the largest source of its gas consumption, equivalent to about 30 percent in total.”

Commending the new coalition government’s reversal, Caroline van der Plas, leader of the BBB,  cheerfully said, “Thanks to BBB’s efforts, the mandatory heat pump will be abolished.”

Agriculture-focused polices the new government is reversing include the previous government’s forced buyout and retirement of farms to cut fertilizer use and associated nitrogen emissions. In its place, the new government will establish a series of voluntary incentives to reduce emissions and offer interested farmers voluntary buyouts to end production.

Wilders government is also set to end subsidies for electric vehicles by 2025, which, as Rotter notes, is “a departure from the EU’s blanket approach to climate policy. These subsidies have been criticized for benefiting the wealthy who can afford electric vehicles while doing little to address broader environmental issues.”

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