Australia Drops Its Case Against Elon Musk’s X Over Church Stabbing Videos

Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters
Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Australia’s cyber safety regulator on Wednesday chose to abandon its legal battle with Elon Musk’s X over graphic footage of a church stabbing attack on the platform.

The violent incident in Sydney in April was captured on a church livestream and footage of the assault quickly spread online, prompting Australia’s eSafety commissioner to order several social media companies to remove the videos or face fines. X eventually blocked users in Australia from being able to see the posts, but the commissioner had sought a federal court injunction for the posts to be completely scrubbed from the site.

Stabbed Bishop Backs Musk’s Bid to Keep Footage of His Attack on X, Court Told

That effort hit a setback last month when the federal court refused to extend a temporary order to block the posts ahead of an expected hearing later in June. Now Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has confirmed the court battle is at an end.

“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,” Inman Grant said in a statement.

She added that the “sole goal” of issuing the removal notice to X and others had been “to prevent this extremely violent footage from going viral, potentially inciting further violence and inflicting more harm on the Australian community.”

“I stand by my investigators and the decisions eSafety made,” she said. “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.”

In its own statement, X’s Global Government Affairs team welcomed the news that the commissioner “is no longer pursuing legal action against X seeking the global removal of content that does not violate X’s rules.” “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,” the statement read.

For his own part, Musk replied to another user who praised X for having taken a “stand against censorship” in contrast with other social media platforms which complied with the commissioner’s removal notices. “Freedom of speech is worth fighting for,” Musk wrote.

The row between X and the regulator blew up in the wake of the church stabbing. Musk accused Inman Grant of being a “censorship commissar” while Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese blasted Musk as an “arrogant billionaire who thinks he is above the law.”

Inman Grant told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Wednesday that Musk’s criticisms had also led to a pile-on from his X followers. “He issued a dog-whistle to 181 million users around the globe, which resulted in death threats directed at me, which resulted in doxxing of my family members, including my three children, so I think with great power comes with great responsibility,” she said.

A 16-year-old boy was arrested and charged with a terrorism offense in connection with the stabbing attack.

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