Australian court lifts order blocking X on church stabbing video

By Thomson Reuters May 12, 2024 | 9:22 PM

SYDNEY (Reuters) – An Australian court on Monday rejected a bid by the country’s cyber safety regulator to extend a temporary order for Elon Musk-owned X to block videos of the stabbing of an Assyrian church bishop, which authorities had called a terrorist attack.

Federal Court judge Geoffrey Kennett said the application to extend the injunction granted last month had been refused. The reasons for the judgement will be released later, the judge said during a brief hearing.

The matter has been listed for a hearing on Wednesday.

The legal tussle has sparked heated exchanges between Musk and senior Australian officials including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who called Musk “an arrogant billionaire” for his objections to take down the video. Musk has posted memes criticising the regulatory order, describing it as censorship.

Other platforms, such as Meta, took down the content quickly when asked.

The Federal Court, Australia’s second-highest court, last month upheld an order by the eSafety Commissioner asking X, formerly Twitter, to take down 65 posts containing footage of the bishop being knifed mid-sermon in Sydney on April 15, saying it showed explicit violence. A 16-year-old boy has been charged with a terrorism offence for the alleged attack.

Australian users have been blocked from viewing the posts but X has refused to remove them globally on the grounds that one country’s rules should not control the internet.

The regulator told the court last week that geo-blocking Australians, the solution X offered, was ineffective because a quarter of the population used virtual private networks that disguised their locations.

Last week, Albanese’s centre-left government announced it would hold a parliamentary inquiry to look into the negative impacts of social media, saying it has significant control over what Australians see online, with almost no scrutiny.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Stephen Coates)