Court orders X hide church stabbing video for all users

Australia's eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has ramped up the battle with Elon Musk.

Australia's eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has ramped up the battle with Elon Musk.

Elon Musk has mocked Australia for “censorship” after the Federal Court granted an injunction against the billionaire’s social media platform X over footage related to the Wakeley church stabbing.

The eSafety Commissioner complained to the Federal Court in a late-night hearing on Monday that X had “geo-blocked” footage for Australian audiences instead of removing it.

The court agreed to a two-day interim suppression and ordered X to block users globally from the violent footage pending a further hearing on Wednesday.

Musk responded on Tuesday morning (AEST) with two posts on X, both mocking Australia’s “censorship” while claiming his social media platform was the only truthful one.

One of the posts shows a fork in the road, with the path to X leading to ‘free speech’ and ‘truth’, and the path to censorship and propaganda leading to other social media platforms like Facebook and TikTok.

In the second post, Musk shares an edited version of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s press conference and writes: “I’d like to take a moment to thank the PM for informing the public that this platform is the only truthful one”.

On Tuesday morning, Albanese labelled Musk an “arrogant billionaire who thinks he’s above the law”.

He said it was unbelievable that Musk was going to court for the right to publish violent content that was against common decency.

Calls have grown for harsher sanctions on social media platforms after distressing footage spread online of the church attack and the mass-casualty stabbing in a Bondi shopping centre days earlier.

Over the weekend, Musk and his company raised free speech and jurisdictional concerns when defying orders to remove footage about the April 15 incident.

The “graphic and violent” footage was instead geo-blocked to Australian audiences, meaning it was still available overseas and could be accessed by Australians with a VPN.

The matter landed in the Federal Court on Monday night after the commissioner made an urgent application to suppress the footage on specific URLs.

The fact the content could be accessed by an Australian user via an overseas-based virtual private network showed it had not been removed, the commissioner’s lawyer Christopher Tran told the court.

“They could have done more,” he said.

It was unclear to observers which particular video was the target of the commissioner’s application.

But Tran described it as “graphic and violent” and capable of causing “irreparable harm” if it continued to circulate.

Footage of a boy repeatedly stabbing Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel last week could still be easily found on X on Monday night.

The court agreed to an interim suppression that shields the material from all users, pending a further hearing on Wednesday.

A barrister for X had asked the court to postpone the hearing without order.

Given the last-minute application and the time difference to San Francisco, where X is based, Marcus Hoyne said he needed time to seek “sensible and proper instructions”.

Granting the order would affect international users “in circumstances where it has no impact on Australia,” he said.

-with AAP

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