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Australia drops case against X over sting videos

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Australia has given up its legal battle to have graphic images of a church stabbing in Sydney removed from Elon Musk’s social media platform X.

The attack on Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel in April was labeled a terror incident by police and was livestreamed online. This led to riots outside the church.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, an independent regulator, threatened X and other social media companies with steep fines if they did not remove the videos of the stabbing, fearing it could incite further violence.

The case was seen as a test of Australia’s ability to enforce its online safety rules against the social media giants.

The Federal Court had temporarily ordered X to conceal the videos, but refused to comply because the order was not valid.

X, formerly Twitter, eventually blocked access to the video in Australia, but users could easily get around this by using a VPN.

Commissioner Julie Inman-Grant – who herself once worked for Twitter – had asked for the video to be removed worldwide, prompting Musk to call her a “censorship commissioner.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese responded by calling Musk an “arrogant billionaire.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Ms Inman-Grant said dropping the case due to “several considerations would likely have the most positive outcome for the online safety of all Australians, especially children”.

“Our sole purpose and focus in issuing our takedown notice was to prevent these extremely violent images from going viral, which would potentially incite further violence and cause further harm to the Australian community,” she said.

She added that she supported the decisions made by the eSafety Commission.

X had previously argued that the commission’s orders were “illegal and dangerous.”

“Global takedown orders go against the principles of a free and open internet and threaten freedom of expression everywhere,” the report said in a statement.

“This was a tragic event and we will not allow people to praise it or call for further violence,” it added.

Ms Inman-Grant has previously told the ABC that Musk’s attention resulted in a series of attacks on his millions of followers, including death threats and her children’s personal information being exposed online.

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