Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel
Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was stabbed by a black-clad figure while conducting a live-streamed sermon. Image by HANDOUT/Christ of Good Shepherd Church
  • crime, law and justice

Bishop wants stabbing videos kept online, X tells court

Miklos Bolza April 24, 2024

Australia’s internet cop has secured an extended take-down order against Elon Musk’s X despite the bishop whose stabbing video triggered a courtroom stoush giving his permission for the content to be shared.

The Federal Court battle will examine how far into cyberspace the eSafety Commissioner should be allowed to reach and its power over social media platforms such as X, formerly known as Twitter.

During a brief hearing on Wednesday, X’s lawyer Marcus Hoyne said there would be substantial material filed by his client contesting the orders and the “exorbitant jurisdiction” claimed by the online safety watchdog.

Elon Musk (file image)
 Elon Musk has defended X after it was accused of failing to remove footage. Image by AP PHOTO 

Mr Musk has stridently defended X after it was accused of failing to remove footage of the alleged terror attack on Sydney bishop Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, who was stabbed during a live-streamed sermon on April 15.

“”There’s recently been an affidavit … from the bishop, the victim of the attack, stating that he’s strongly of the view that the material should be available,” Mr Hoyne said.

Blocking clips of Bishop Emmanuel’s stabbing for Australian web users was enough, X has argued.

The social media company was looking to retain high-profile barrister Bret Walker SC to represent it in the case, the court heard.

Representing the eSafety Commissioner, barrister Christopher Tran said there was evidence X had failed to follow an interim order made by the court on Monday.

Bret Walker (file image)
 X wants high-profile barrister Bret Walker SC to represent it in the case, the court heard. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

“Your Honour’s order hasn’t been complied with,” he told Justice Geoffrey Kennett.

The judge extended the take-down order, in which clips of the alleged attack would be hidden behind a legal notice for all global users.

The order will be in place until an interlocutory hearing set for May 10, when X will be able to contest the prohibitions.

“We do not consent to any injunctions,” Mr Hoyne said.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has been backed by a rare united front of Australian politicians who want the “extreme violent video content” deleted from servers, as other social media platforms have done.

“To be clear, eSafety’s removal notice does not relate to commentary, public debate or other posts about this event – even those which may link to extreme violent content,” a spokesman previously said.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant
 Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has been backed by a united front of Australian politicians. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

“It only concerns the video of the violent stabbing attack on Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel.”

While the eSafety commissioner says it might be difficult to eradicate damaging content from the internet entirely, platforms are required to do everything “practical and reasonable” to minimise the harm it might cause to the Australian community.

Mr Musk has continued a war of words by comparing Ms Inman Grant to a communist authority, saying permitting her powers to extend beyond Australia’s borders could allow a single country to control the entire internet.

“The Australian people want the truth,” he posted to X on Wednesday morning.

“X is the only one standing up for their rights.”

The maximum penalty for non-compliance with a removal notice for a body corporate is $782,500 per contravention.