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Federal Court unblocks stabbing footage on X

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The Federal Court has decided not to extend a ban on footage of last month’s Western Sydney church stabbing on X.
The Federal Court has decided not to extend a ban on footage of last month’s Western Sydney church stabbing on X.

The Federal Court has decided not to extend a ban on footage of last month’s Western Sydney church stabbing on X.

Two people were wounded during the live-streamed incident before the footage was shared across social media.

The online safety watchdog successfully applied for a temporary injunction, which ordered X to hide videos of the stabbing on the platform.

However, that order expired this afternoon, and the Federal Court ruled against extending it.

Stabbing video

Prominent church leader Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was stabbed at Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Sydney’s west last month.

Police have since arrested a 16-year-old and declared the incident a terrorist act.

The church live-streams its services, meaning the incident was broadcast online.

eSafety order

Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, can order websites and social media platforms to remove content that “promotes, incites, or instructs in matters of crime or violence”.

Two days after the church stabbing, Grant ordered Meta and X to remove videos of the incident. The companies faced being fined over $780,000 for every day they disobeyed the order. Meta complied with the take-down orders.

X responded with a national ‘geo-block’ on videos of the incident, meaning the footage couldn’t be seen by Australian users.

However, the videos could still be viewed in other countries. Australian users with a VPN, (virtual private network) which allows them to conceal their location online, could also access the content.

The eSafety Commissioner launched legal action against X, whose owner Elon Musk expressed concern about Australia being able to “censor content for all countries”.

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

The Commissioner had tried to extend the ban beyond its expiration on Monday afternoon.

However, Federal Court Justice Geoffrey Kennett refused the eSafety Commissioner’s bid.

Justice Kennett did not publish his reasons for rejecting the application.

What next?

The eSafety Commissioner’s legal action against X is expected to continue with a hearing in the Federal Court later this week.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, said the Government would “examine the detail of the decision”.

“We don’t want to see offensive material getting wide currency,” Dreyfus said.

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