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eSafety drops Fed Court case against X over stabbing footage

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The eSafety Commissioner has dropped a Federal Court case against X over graphic footage of the Sydney church stabbing.

The eSafety Commissioner has dropped a Federal Court case against X, which is owned by billionaire Elon Musk, over graphic footage of the Sydney church stabbing.

X refused to comply with eSafety’s orders to take down the footage completely, citing free speech concerns.

It comes after the Federal Court declined to extend a temporary ban on sharing the footage on X.

Now, the case is headed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

Stabbing footage

In April, prominent church leader Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was stabbed at Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Sydney’s west. The church live-streamed its services, so the incident was broadcast online.

In the following days, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant ordered Meta and X to remove the footage, threatening fines of over $780,000 for each day they did not comply.

Meta and X

While Meta complied with the take-down orders, X instituted a national geo-block on videos of the incident. This meant the footage couldn’t be viewed by Australian users, but was accessible in other countries and to those with a VPN (virtual private network) concealing their location.

X argued “global takedown orders go against the very principles of a free and open internet and threaten free speech everywhere.”

Musk also expressed concern about Australia’s ability to “censor content for all countries.”

Lawsuit

Inman Grant launched legal action against X, alleging it had not taken “reasonable steps” to remove the material.

The court initially approved the eSafety Commissioner’s request for a temporary injunction (order) to remove videos showing the stabbing from X.

An attempt to extend this injunction last month was rejected by Federal Court Justice Geoffrey Kennett, who ruled X had taken “reasonable steps” by implementing the national geo-block.

AAT

The eSafety Commissioner has now decided to drop the Federal Court case, and “consolidate action” in the AAT.

The AAT reviews decisions made by Government ministers, departments, and agencies. It has the power to overturn these decisions, but its rulings can also be overruled by the courts.

“eSafety remains committed to exercising the full range of provisions available under the Online Safety Act to hold all tech companies to account without fear or favour”.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant in a statement announcing the decision to discontinue Federal Court proceedings against X.

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