Home » Australian watchdog seeks removal of stabbing video from X

Australian watchdog seeks removal of stabbing video from X

Australia’s online watchdog informed a court on Friday (May 10) that it was seeking worldwide removal of X posts that shows a stabbing in Sydney.

The lawyers for the eSafety Commission told the Federal Court that X had not taken all logical steps to eliminate 65 video and audio clips of a knife attack on an Assyrian bishop. 

With the authority to take down illegal content like terrorism videos from online platforms, the commission responded to the stabbing by issuing takedown notices to social media companies.

However, the commission argues that X only restricted access to the videos for Australian users.

Tim Begbie, a commission representative, highlighted that even with X’s attempt to block the videos geographically within Australia, they remained accessible through virtual private networks (VPNs) that mask a user’s location.

“If, truly, the only step you can take because of how you have set up your systems and policies is global removal, then that is a reasonable step,” he said. 

According to Begbie, X has policies that allow the global removal of content, it has declined to use them. 

“X says that reasonable means what X wants it to mean. Global removal is reasonable because X wants to do it, but it becomes unreasonable when X is told to do it by the laws of Australia.”

Begbie said, this is not a proceeding about a free speech policy debate. Rather, the case is about whether the graphic material was suitable under Australia’s Online Safety Act, and the law’s powers to protect the public from restricted content.

Sydney church stabbing

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was allegedly slashed in the head and chest by a 16-year-old suspect during an April 15 service.

It was deemed a terrorist incident by police. While the bishop, who has recovered from the attack, has supported the video’s distribution. 

X’s lawyer, Bret Walker, argued in court that the takedown order only restricted access for Australian users. He further emphasised the need for a nuanced approach, questioning whether the stabbing video truly met the criteria for removal.

Walker offered an analogy, comparing the video to a war movie. He explained that violent content doesn’t automatically qualify for removal simply because it depicts a killing.

Justice Geoffrey Kennett extended the court’s order requiring X to block the attack videos until next week, when the issue of global removal will likely be addressed.

(With inputs from agencies)