X injunction lengthened as Elon Musk’s lawyer claims stabbed priest wants footage to be shown

Tim Clarke
The Nightly
Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel has signed an affidavit calling for the footage of his alleged attack to remain online.
Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel has signed an affidavit calling for the footage of his alleged attack to remain online. Credit: Supplied

The injunction ordering social media platform X to block footage of the Sydney church stabbing from view has been extended for more than two weeks — amid an extraordinary claim that the victim of the attack wants the images to remain available online.

Another hastily convened Federal Court hearing was heard in Sydney on Wednesday, where lawyers for the Federal Government and the tech giant faced off before Justice Geoffrey Kennett.

He was urged by government lawyer Christopher Tran to extend the order he made on Monday, which banned the social media platform from showing the attack on Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel in an Assyrian Orthodox church as a service was being streamed online on April 15.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

And despite resistance from X’s legal representative Marcus Hoyne that is what he did, until May 10 when a full hearing will be heard.

During his arguments, Mr Hoyne pinpointed the issue of “exorbitant jurisdiction” as being the cornerstone of their case, saying there would need to be substantial material put before the court.

And he claimed that would include an affidavit from Bishop Emmanuel which he said was “strongly of the view that material (showing the attack) should be available”.

Mr Tran said several times that X were in breach of the previous court orders which said the social media company should remove specific posts showing the stabbing from view anywhere in the world.

But he said the Government would not “seek to make mention of the non-compliance” yet.

“Those consequences are for another day,” Mr Tran said.

In a statement, the office of eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the extended injunction again required X to “take all reasonable steps to ensure the removal of the extreme violent video material of the alleged terrorist act”.

“The removal notice identified specific URLs where the material was located,” the spokesperson confirmed.

“The removal notice given to X Corp does not relate to commentary, public debate or other posts about this event, even those which may link to extreme violent content. It only concerns the video of the violent stabbing attack.

“We encourage people to report the video of the violent stabbing attack in the first instance to the platform where it appears.”

The developments came as the social media giant’s owner Elon Musk declared a war of words on Australia’s politicians, calling independent senator Jacqui Lambie an “enemy of the people” after she called him a “social media knob“, and trading jabs with the Prime Minister, who labelled him an “arrogant billionaire”.

Opposition communications spokesman David Coleman has said he would also be happy to go head-to-head with Mr Musk on the issue, pointing to the detrimental impacts of social media on children’s mental health and calling for a trial of age verification technology.

“It’s unacceptable,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“We would never have agreed consciously to the situation that we find ourselves in, with young children accessing this sort of distressing material basically every day.

“That’s why taking action is so important.”

As X battles the watchdog’s takedown notice in Federal Court, it has temporarily geoblocked graphic content of the April 15 incident.

The eSafety Commissioner has argued that geoblocking, rather than a blanket take-down, did not go far enough to comply with its direction.

A spokesperson from the eSafety commissioner clarified that the removal notice did not relate to commentary, public debate or other posts about the event, “even those which may link to extreme violent content“, only videos of the specific stabbing event.

However, Mr Musk has argued the order to take down posts globally was illegal as the Australian agency could not dictate what overseas users could see and the takedown went against free speech principles.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland would not comment on jurisdiction while the case was before the court but said the commissioner had “exercised their powers in accordance with a law passed by our Parliament”.

When questioned on consistency, Ms Rowland said the takedown order targeting the stabbing video was different from other graphic content circulating due to the April 15 attack being declared a terrorist act.

Class one material includes content that depicts real violence that has a high degree of impact in a gratuitous manner and was likely to cause offence.

“In this case, the very high degree of impact is reached by virtue of the terrorism designation that has been given to this particular event,” Ms Rowland said.

At least one video of a boy repeatedly stabbing Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel during a sermon at Christ the Good Shepherd Church was still easily accessible on Facebook on Wednesday.

Ms Rowland encouraged people to report such videos rather than forward them.

“We don’t want vulnerable people to be seeing content that may, for example, lead to their radicalisation, we don’t want child sexual abuse or child sexual exploitation material proliferating on the internet.”

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)

Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 22-07-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 22 July 202422 July 2024

Desperate Democrats look to comeback queen Harris.