Court sides with X over violent posts

Henry

Australian online watchdog e-Safety’s attempt to ban dozens of violent posts on X failed on Monday when a judge ruled in favor of the social media platform.

Australian Federal Court judge Geoffrey Kennett refused to extend the interim ban on posts showing a priest being stabbed in the chest and head during an online church service in Sydney last month pending further legal proceedings.

Kennett did not immediately provide reasons for his decision.

Australia’s online safety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, wants Elon Musk’s company to remove about 65 video and audio clips of the stabbing, which was broadcast live on April 15, from X.

X, formerly known as Twitter, agreed to geo-block the posts, theoretically preventing users in Australia from seeing them. Nevertheless, e-Safety says this is not good enough.

The Australian online watchdog has called on X to remove the posts worldwide as it says the content can still be easily viewed in Australia simply through the use of virtual private networks (VPN) that hide a user’s location.

Unlike other social media companies, X refused.

“Only X resisted censoring your voice,” Musk told his followers on X earlier.

However, Monday’s ruling is not a total victory for X, as the social media platform has already disobeyed the global removal order and further legal action is expected in this regard.

It is also unclear whether the judge rejected the extension of the injunction on procedural or more substantive grounds. But this indicates some relief for X and could mean that the company escapes fines of millions of dollars.

The case is considered an important test for social media platforms’ legal responsibilities and the use of geo-blocking.

According to eSafety, almost a quarter of Australians use VPNs.

Musk has previously told social media users on X to use virtual private networks to bypass alleged “censorship” in Brazil.

He has targeted democratically elected governments such as those of Australia, Brazil and Canada over free speech, but seems to avoid criticism of autocratic countries where he has business interests.