Brownstone » Brownstone Institute Articles » The Face Behind Australia’s Censorship Push
The Face Behind Australia's Censorship Push

The Face Behind Australia’s Censorship Push


Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, has made international headlines over alleged censorship creep in an escalating standoff with social media platform X, owned by billionaire Elon Musk.

Inman Grant’s current crusade is not an isolated affair. She is a key player in a growing network of international initiatives seeking to impose bureaucratic controls over citizens’ speech, including coordinating with high-level EU officials, the World Economic Forum, and government-backed “anti-disinformation” projects such as the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. 

The fracas with Musk involves Inman Grant obtaining an interim injunction to force X to hide footage of the non-fatal stabbing of a Bishop, which was live-streamed during a Western Sydney church service on Monday evening 15 April. 

​​X Global Affairs says the platform complied with a removal notice from the Commissioner to restrict content visibility to Australian audiences, but has challenged a further “unlawful” demand that X “globally withhold these posts or face a daily fine of $785,000 AUD.”

“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?” Musk posted to X.

eSafety would not confirm if the removal notice ordered that X withhold the footage globally or just within Australia, but in a statement released on 23 April, the Commissioner confirmed that eSafety will seek a permanent injunction and civil penalties against X Corp over the matter. 

Politicians on both sides of the aisle have come out swinging in support of Inman Grant, calling for more online censorship as they seek to exploit two recent knife attacks, one of which claimed six lives to relaunch a shelved misinformation bill, with the center-right opposition flipping its position to now support the legislation.

At a time when the prioritisation of safety-at-all-costs increasingly threatens privacy and free expression, Julie Inman Grant provides a case study of the new global mindset driving the push for ever more regulation and censorship.

Who is Julie Inman Grant?

After college, American-born Inman Grant was approached to join the CIA. Instead, she chose eSafety. “I wanted to do psychological profiles of serial killers but [the CIA] wanted to talk me into becoming a case agent — which meant that I wouldn’t be able to tell my friends and family what I was doing so that scared me off,” she told newspaper lift out, Stellar.

After gaining degrees in international communications and relations, Inman Grant entered the overlapping world of government relations and Big Tech, including working with the Clinton administration on an online safety summit. A 17-year stint across several Microsoft outposts (1995 – 2012 in toto) saw Inman Grant move to Australia, where she married an Australian.

At Microsoft, Inman Grant focused on issues such as cyber-bullying, online safety for the family, and online reputation management, and was promoted to the role of Global Director for Privacy and Internet Safety.

From there, Inman Grant moved to Twitter as Director of Public Policy for Australia and Southeast Asia between 2014 to 2016, when the company was focused on building a ‘safer’ environment, rolling out new rules against online abuse and improving tolerance and diversity

In 2015, eSafety was established by then Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull (who went on to become Prime Minister) under the Enhancing Online Safety Act (2015). The regulator was designed to cover the gap between offline issues that could be resolved by schools, and criminal issues, to be dealt with by police.

The bill received bipartisan support, although Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm reportedly warned that it would create another burdensome bureaucracy, and that the desire to ‘protect the children’ would inevitably result in the restriction of civil liberties.

But it wasn’t until 2017 that eSafety began to take shape as the powerful, far-reaching online watchdog that it is today, when Julie Inman Grant was selected by then Prime Minister Turnbull as the new eSafety Commissioner.

Inman Grant’s appointment was heralded with fanfare about cleansing the internet of revenge porn. It was widely agreed that existing criminal offences did not adequately deal with the problem. Accordingly, the government expanded eSafety’s remit to safeguard adults as well as children.

By this stage, Inman Grant had worked for decades in the development of online safety tech, policy, and communications, going on to become Chair of the Child Dignity Alliance’s Technical Working Group, and Board Member of the WePROTECT Global Alliance against child sexploitation.

In 2021, the Australian government passed sweeping new reforms under the Online Safety Act (2021), which gave the unelected Commissioner greater powers over a broader range of services and content. 

The Commissioner was empowered with a range of remedial actions she can take to compel compliance, including civil penalties, which Inman Grant characterised as “a big stick that we can use when we want to…They’re going to be regulated in ways they don’t want to be regulated.”

The Act also gave the Commissioner new powers to require internet service providers to block access to material showing violent conduct such as terrorist acts – a legislative response to the virality of footage from the Christchurch terror attack of 2019.

The aforementioned stabbing of a Sydney Bishop was classed as a terrorist incident by the New South Wales Police, giving Inman Grant the ability to order the footage removed from social media sites within Australia.

In 2022, Inman Grant was reappointed by the conservative Morrison government for a second five-year term, a role in which she currently oversees 125 staff and a base annual budget of AUD $42.5 million. eSafety’s budget was quadrupled by the Albanese government in the 2023 federal budget from $10.3 million, an increase justified by concerns that eSafety was facing a “funding cliff.”

Inman Grant also played an important role in the development of Australia’s Digital ID and service delivery framework, as an expert panel member on the government’s expansive audit of its myGov platform, which informed developments of the revamped platform and related, interdependent frameworks, including the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF). 

Inman Grant has previously insinuated that there is a need for a global identity system to track down online perpetrators, stating in an interview, “You can use VPNs, you can use burner phones, different SIM cards every day. So it’s going to be a challenge for a long time because, again, the internet’s global. If there is no such thing as a kind of global identity system or even a piece of identity everybody can agree with, you know, should we all be sharing our driver’s license or our passports?”

Inman Grant has also spoken of the need to “compel basic device information and account information” including “phone numbers and email addresses so that our investigators can at least find a place to issue a notice or a takedown notice or infringement notice of some sort.”

International Coordination

While expanding her powers and influencing the development of digital ID and services infrastructure at home, Inman Grant has worked to build strong ties globally.

Earlier this year, Inman Grant attended the 2024 World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting, which she supplemented with trips to Dublin and Brussels. In Dublin, she met with members of the Irish online regulator, the Minister for Trade, Digital and Company Regulation, Dara Calleary and the UK’s Ofcom Group Director of Online Safety, Gill Whitehead. This at a time when the Irish Government is pushing an unpopular hate speech bill.

In Brussels, Inman Grant met with EU officials, including European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson and Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová. As reported by Public, Jourová was recently involved in spreading spurious claims of Russian interference in upcoming EU elections, a campaign bearing hallmarks of the debunked Russiagate hoax. Jourová was also instrumental in pushing through the EU Digital Services Act, which, like Australia’s Online Safety Act, gives bureaucrats wide powers over online platforms.

Just two months later, Commissioner Johansson (who oversees EU counter terrorism and internal security) travelled to Australia to meet again with Inman Grant and other key Australian leaders to discuss counter terrorism strategies, mis- and disinformation, fighting cyber terrorism, and child sexual abuse crime, a potpourri of all the bad things that could occur online. 

The eSafety Commissioner’s ties to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) are disquieting, considering that its funders include the US State Department and intelligence services, as well as its strong ties to NATO. ISD was part of several recent efforts to discredit protests by farmers in Germany by labeling them as “far-right.”

Inman Grant is part of ISD’s Digital Policy Lab, funded by the Alfred Landecker Foundation – whose grantees include DISARM, an offense-focused counter-disinformation initiative with strong military ties that emerged from the Cyber Threat Intelligence League, as exposed by Public and Racket. CTIL “engaged in offensive operations to influence public opinion, discussing ways to promote “counter-messaging,” co-opt hashtags, dilute disfavored messaging, create sock puppet accounts, and infiltrate private invite-only groups.” 

Inman Grant also chairs the Global Online Safety Regulators Network, and co-chairs the WEF’s Global Coalition for Digital Safety, where she is looked to for leadership on digital safety policy.

It was at a WEF annual gathering in 2022 that Inman Grant made *that* statement about human rights being recalibrated, and the internet clocked a darker side to the bureaucrat’s globalist crusade for online safety.

Discussing competing rights in digital spaces, Inman Grant said, ”I think we’re going to have to think about a recalibration of a whole range of human rights that are playing out online, from freedom of speech to the freedom…to be free from online violence…”

The tension between freedom of speech and censorship in the name of harm minimisation is at the core of the Commissioner’s ongoing stoush with Elon Musk’s X, of which the tussle over the Sydney stabbing footage is just the latest installment. 

In December last year, the Commissioner initiated civil penalty proceedings against X over its alleged failure to comply with a routine reporting notice (eSafety declined to comment on the status of the proceedings). 

In turn, X is threatening to sue eSafety over its censorship of a post by Canadian activist Billboard Chris strongly criticising an individual appointed by the World Health Organization to serve as an expert on transgender issues. 

The Commissioner’s pattern of targeting gender-critical posts on X raises the question of whether her ideological biases sway her regulatory actions. eSafety has previously ordered removal of a post suggesting that men can’t breastfeed, and another alleging that a trans man had injured female players during a women’s football game. 

Inman Grant’s pursuit of X in particular also seems personal – Inman Grant has frequently criticised Musk for his staffing cuts since his purchase of the platform in 2022.

More concerning, however, are her global ties, which suggest eSafety is not only a project to protect Australians online, but is part of a larger agenda to impose new systems of digital control. 

As if to prove the point, eSafety and both major parties have leveraged the recent violent tragedies to push this agenda, maximising public grief to reboot the widely panned misinformation bill.  

To some, Inman Grant is a hero, protecting children from online abuse, ridding the internet of revenge porn, and breaking new ground in leading a globally coordinated response to the problem of online hate. To others she is an e-Karen, a Censorship Commissar with a personal vendetta against Elon Musk, cynically exploiting multiple tragedies to lead a bureaucratic power grab and censor the speech of everyday citizens, both in Australia and globally. Both may be true. 

eSafety was asked to comment on Elon Musk’s claims that the Commissioner is attempting global censorship on the internet, and on the nature of her relationship with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, but did not respond before publication deadline. This article will be updated if and when a response is received.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
For reprints, please set the canonical link back to the original Brownstone Institute Article and Author.


  • Rebekah Barnett

    Rebekah Barnett is a Brownstone Institute fellow, independent journalist and advocate for Australians injured by the Covid vaccines. She holds a BA in Communications from the University of Western Australia, and writes for her Substack, Dystopian Down Under.

    View all posts
  • Andrew Lowenthal

    Andrew Lowenthal is a Brownstone Institute fellow, journalist, and the founder and CEO of liber-net, a digital civil liberties initiative. He was co-founder and Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific digital rights non-profit EngageMedia for almost eighteen years, and a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and MIT’s Open Documentary Lab.

    View all posts

Donate Today

Your financial backing of Brownstone Institute goes to support writers, lawyers, scientists, economists, and other people of courage who have been professionally purged and displaced during the upheaval of our times. You can help get the truth out through their ongoing work.

Subscribe to Brownstone for More News

Stay Informed with Brownstone Institute