Australia drops legal action against X for refusing to remove Sydney stabbing videos globally

Australia drops legal action against X for refusing to remove Sydney stabbing videos globally

Australia’s online safety regulator has dropped its legal battle to have X remove graphic footage of a bishop’s stabbing in Sydney.

The eSafety commissioner said on Wednesday that it decided to drop the action after federal judge Geoffrey Kennett rejected its bid to extend an order for X to block videos of the knife attack.

“Most Australians accept this kind of graphic material should not be on broadcast television, which begs an obvious question of why it should be allowed to be distributed freely and accessible online 24/7 to anyone, including children,” eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.

Four people, including an Assyrian church bishop, were stabbed during a church service in Sydney in April.

Ms Grant said the regulatory body ordered X to take down videos of the attack because they were easy for children to access.

The commissioner wanted to prevent the “extremely violent footage from going viral” fearing it could incite further violence and inflict more harm, she added.

While X said it blocked the posts for its Australian users, the commissioner called for the videos to be taken down for everyone.

The social media company refused to do so saying one country’s rules should not control the entire internet.

The commissioner said the company’s position was ineffective as several users in Australia could use virtual private networks to disguise their location and view the footage.

But Twitter owner Elon Musk decried it as censorship.

The tussle turned into a online spat with Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese calling Mr Musk “an arrogant billionaire”.

“Social media companies need to do the right thing,” Mr Albanese said. “We are prepared to take whatever action is necessary to haul these companies into line.”

On Wednesday, Ms Grant said the regulatory body was discontinuing the proceedings in the federal court against X.

“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,” she said.

“I stand by my investigators and the decisions eSafety made,” Ms Grant said, adding that cost was a key factor in her decision to “consolidate” the commission’s legal action against X.

She added that her action against the social media platform would continue in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

“The real questions that I want tested through an independent merits review will be done at the AAT and it didn’t make sense for me to be fighting a battle on two fronts when, let’s face it, the war is going to be much longer and more extended,” Ms Grant told ABC News.

Mr Musk welcomed the decision, posting on X: “Freedom of speech is worth fighting for.”