eSafety drops Federal Court case against Elon Musk’s X over bishop stabbing in favour of tribunal hearing

- June 5, 2024 2 MIN READ
A screenshot of Bishop Emmanuel's alleged attacker approaching him during his church service
Australian eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant has dropped her Federal Court action against social media platform X (formerly Twitter), no doubt hoping the in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will be as sympathetic to her arguments as a similar tribunal in Queensland.

The change in strategy comes are X owner Elon Musk last month won the initial battle in the Federal Court fight with the eSafety Commissioner over demands that X remove footage of a bishop being stabbed in Sydney. The court refused to extend an interim order for the social media giant to hide the videos after eSafety sought to have the footage removed globally, rather than just having it geo-blocked in Australia.

This week X changed its rules to allow porn and violence on the platform.

Today Inman Grant said she had decided to consolidate action over removal notice to X Corp in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

“After weighing multiple considerations, including litigation across multiple cases, I have considered this option likely to achieve the most positive outcome for the online safety of all Australians, especially children,” she said.

“We now welcome the opportunity for a thorough and independent merits review of my decision to issue a removal notice to X Corp by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

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

The commissioner said other major social media platforms and search engines complied with our requests and removal notices, including Meta, Microsoft, Google, Snap, Tik Tok, Reddit and Telegram, because the video violated their terms of service and their standards of decency.

“So, it was a reasonable expectation when we made our request to remove extremely graphic video of an attack, that X Corp would take action in line with these publicly stated policies and practices,” she said.

“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. ”

Inman Grant undoubtedly noticed a decision last month in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT), which ruled that X is subject to Queensland anti-discrimination laws and action can be taken against it for content posted on the platform that is in breach of Australian domestic law.

X attempted to have the case thrown out by arguing that it is a foreign corporation that is not registered in Australia, and operates the platform in question from California, US.

But QCAT rejected the argument in a judgment that potentially sets a significant precedent.

That case was brought by the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN) in early 2023, after a complaint was first made to the Queensland Human Rights Commissioner regarding posts on X that “denigrated, dehumanised and demonised the Muslim community”.

QCAT senior member Ann Fitzpatrick concluded that X is actively operating in Queensland.

“I find that entering contracts with subscribers, earning revenue from advertisers in Queensland and enabling advertisers to target Queensland subscribers to X Corp, falls within the ordinary understanding of carrying on business,” she said.

Similar thinking in the AAT could play in favour of the eSafety commissioner.