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Australia v Musk: eSafety Commissioner withdraws from X takedown battle

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner has decided to back down from the legal battle with X over the call to take down footage of the Sydney church stabbing from the platform.

user icon Daniel Croft
Wed, 05 Jun 2024
Australia v Musk: eSafety Commissioner withdraws from X takedown battle
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In a statement released today (5 June), eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant has announced that she will no longer pursue legal action against Elon Musk and X Corp over the refusal to follow takedown notices of content from its platform.

“Today I have decided to consolidate action concerning my Class 1 removal notice to X Corp in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal,” the statement said.

“After weighing multiple considerations, including litigation across multiple cases, I have considered this option likely to achieve the most positive outcome for the online safety of all Australians, especially children.


“As a result, 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.”

For context, on 16 April, Inman Grant called for social media giants to take down footage of the stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Sydney the day prior.

“I am exercising my powers under the Online Safety Act to formally compel [social media giants] to remove [the footage],” Inman Grant said.

“I have issued a notice to X requiring them to remove this content. A legal notice will also be sent to Meta this afternoon, and further notices are likely to follow. I will not hesitate to use further graduated powers at my disposal if there is non-compliance.”

X responded saying that while it is regretful to hear of such horrific attacks, the posts did not violate its terms and that the eSafety Commissioner did “not have the authority to dictate what content X’s users can see globally.

“We will robustly challenge this unlawful and dangerous approach in court,” X said.

Now, despite powerful comments by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Inman Grant has backed down from proceedings, which were set to be heard in court at the end of the month. Prior to this, the Federal Court sided with X, refusing an extension on an injunction that would hide the posts.

In her latest statement, the eSafety commissioner acknowledged that other social media giants followed the requests to take down the content as they violated their terms.

“So, it was a reasonable expectation when we made our request to remove extremely graphic video of an attack, that X Corp would take action in line with these publicly stated policies and practices,” Inman Grant said.

Inman Grant added that speaking with the European Commission, X Corp’s CEO also said: “... our service has clear rules that prohibit violent and hateful entities, perpetrators of violent attacks, violent speech, sensitive media and the synthetic and manipulated media policy.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we strictly adhere to our policies concerning illegal content and we continue to remove illegal content, including terrorist content, from our platform.”

She also acknowledged that X had previously removed content at the request of the eSafety Commissioner, including a compilation video of the Bondi stabbing, the church stabbing and another video in which two Victorian police officers were killed.

X responded positively to the eSafety Commissioner’s decision.

“We welcome the news that the eSafety Commissioner is no longer pursuing legal action against X seeking the global removal of content that does not violate X’s rules,” X said in a post via the platform’s Global Government Affairs account.

“This case has raised important questions on how legal powers can be used to threaten global censorship of speech, and we are heartened to see that freedom of speech has prevailed.”

Executive chairman of News Corp, Michael Miller, also weighed in on the issue, saying that these social media giants benefit from having “evil” content.

“In the words of Cyber Security Minister Clare O’Neil, just about every problem that we have as a country is either being exacerbated by or caused by social media, and we’re not seeing a skerrick of responsibility taken by these companies,” Miller said during a speech at the National Press Club.

“And why is this happening? Because on social media, bad behaviour is good for business.

“The social media giants, they profit from evil videos, they profit from bullying, they profit from online con artists, they profit from glamourising eating disorders. In the words of a British father who, like Wayne, lost their child to suicide, they monetise misery.”

Miller added that “no company should be too big to regulate” and that, if during the early “wonder years” of the internet, we could look forward and see a future where “a handful of companies had privatised the internet, created multibillion-dollar advertising monopolies, and exposed billions of people to harmful content while turning their noses up at nations around the world,” questioned if we would have approved.

News Corp is currently campaigning to have the social media use age increased from 13 to 16, a solution that would, on paper, prevent children from viewing violent and intense content like the church stabbing footage, while also protecting them from the data collection that goes with social media.

“In New York, that state is wanting to introduce legislation … that restricts social media usage to [people over] 16, and [so] that the tech platforms cannot – will have to change their algorithms to not target under-16-year-olds,” Miller said.

UPDATED 05/06/24 to add X commentary.

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft

Born in the heart of Western Sydney, Daniel Croft is a passionate journalist with an understanding for and experience writing in the technology space. Having studied at Macquarie University, he joined Momentum Media in 2022, writing across a number of publications including Australian Aviation, Cyber Security Connect and Defence Connect. Outside of writing, Daniel has a keen interest in music, and spends his time playing in bands around Sydney.

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