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Internet cop in court loss over church stabbing video

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner has been dealt a loss in a battle with the social media platform X over video of a stabbing during a live-streamed sermon.

A file photo of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel in 2023. Photo: AAP/Christ The Good Shepherd Church

A file photo of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel in 2023. Photo: AAP/Christ The Good Shepherd Church

The eSafety Commissioner sought a temporary injunction ordering X, formerly Twitter, to block 65 websites containing a clip of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel being attacked until Justice Geoffrey Kennett determined whether the social media platform breached any laws.

An order was made and extended in April, but Justice Kennett on Monday rejected an application to extend the injunction further before a hearing in the Federal Court on Wednesday.

The commissioner had the power to order the removal of videos advocating terrorism or showing gratuitous, exploitative violence, but the clip did not fall into either category, X’s barrister Bret Walker SC told the court on Friday.

X had already taken all reasonable steps it could to block the clip from Australian viewers short of removing the footage from everyone globally, he argued.

The commissioner’s barrister Tim Begbie KC said X’s policies permitted it to take posts down globally and it did so when it suited.

“Global removal is reasonable when X does it because X wants to do it, but it becomes unreasonable when X is told to do it by the laws of Australia,” he said, characterising the company’s position.

The commissioner ordered X to remove videos of the bishop being attacked during a live-streamed sermon at a western Sydney church on April 15.

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While the company blocked Australian users from viewing the clip, the court heard virtual private networks allowed users to circumvent geographic restrictions and view the material.

The stabbing incident was declared a terrorist incident and several teenagers have since faced court charged with related offences, including the alleged attacker.

Others have been charged for their alleged involvement in a subsequent riot outside the church.

– AAP

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