Australia drops legal action that aimed to have X take down stabbing vid

Musky network celebrates free speech win ... after not opposing takedown of similar fare

Australia's eSafety commissioner has ended legal action that aimed to compel social network X to take down a video depicting a knife attack on a clergyman classified as an act of terror under local law.

The attack was livestreamed in April and quickly spread, leading the commissioner to ask social networks to make it unavailable in Australia. But locals continued to access it over VPNs as social networks geo-blocked it rather than removing it entirely. The commissioner requested further action and sought an injunction that would compel the video's removal from X – an action Elon Musk labelled an assault on free speech, and an attempt by one nation to impose its laws on the entire world.

The commissioner today ended its legal action.

"Today I have decided to consolidate action concerning my Class 1 removal notice to X Corp," wrote commissioner Julie Inman Grant, on grounds that doing so is "likely to achieve the most positive outcome for the online safety of all Australians, especially children."

"Our sole goal and focus in issuing our removal notice was to prevent this extremely violent footage from going viral, potentially inciting further violence and inflicting more harm on the Australian community," she wrote, before arguing "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."

X's global affairs team emitted a triumphal Xeet in which it welcomed the commissioner's decision as the video "does not violate X's rules." The Xeet adds: "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."

Yet Inman Grant has called out X for inconsistencies, noting that it recently responded positively to a request for global removal of a video depicting multiple violent incidents that took place in Australia – including stabbings not classified as acts of terror under local law.

She also noted that other major social media platforms and search engines – including Meta, Microsoft, Google, Snap, Tik Tok, Reddit and Telegram – took down the video that X refused to remove.

"This is because the video violated their terms of service and their standards of decency," she wrote.

The matter is not at an end. Australia's Administrative Appeals Tribunal will now consider the Commission's actions.

Inman Grant also opined that the matter represented a useful learning experience.

"Through this process, eSafety has also welcomed the opportunity to test its novel regulatory powers – set out under Australia's Online Safety Act – to protect Australians from online harm," she wrote. ®

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