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13 May, 2024 11:36

Elon Musk wins court battle against Australia

The tech billionaire’s X platform has insisted that Canberra’s order to remove a stabbing video was invalid
Elon Musk wins court battle against Australia

An Australian Federal Court judge has decided not to extend an order banning Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) platform from displaying a video of a stabbing attack in a church in Sydney.

On Monday, Justice Geoffrey Kennett denied an application by the country’s eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, to extend restrictions on the clip, which she had deemed to be “class 1” material relating to high-impact violence. The judge hasn’t yet provided explanations for his ruling.

The initial ban on the video, which was imposed by the Federal Court in Melbourne on April 22, expired on Monday.

X had refused to comply with the order, which would have made the clip inaccessible to users worldwide. The platform only agreed to block the content in Australia. Musk insisted back then that one country should not have the power to censor the whole internet. The eSafety commissioner argued that a blanket ban was needed as Australians could still access the video through a VPN.

The clip in question showed a stabbing that took place during a live-streamed sermon at an Assyrian Christian church in the suburbs of Sydney on April 15. Four people, including Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, were injured in what the Australian authorities described as a “terrorist incident.” The footage of the attack was widely shared online and allegedly prompted heated protests near the crime scene.

During the hearing on Friday, lawyer for the eSafety Commissioner, Tim Begbie, argued that the refusal to comply with the order by X amounted to mockery of the Federal Court. “What that says about the authority of the court is pretty striking,” he said.

X’s lawyer Bret Walker argued that the platform did not implement the ban on the stabbing video because the commissioner’s initial take-down notice was invalid and “manifestly inadequate” due to the absence of a detailed description of the reasons for the ban.

The social media company believes that “global removal is reasonable when X does it because X wants to do it, but it becomes unreasonable when it is told to do it by the laws of Australia,” Walker told the judge.

In late April, Bishop Emmanuel supported Musk during a sermon, saying that he wanted the video of the attack against him to remain online because it is “our God-given right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”