Showdown set with Elon Musk’s X over Sydney church stabbing content

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A date has been set for the showdown between Elon Musk’s social media giant X and the online regulator after a temporary order barring content from the Sydney church stabbing was thrown out.

The Federal Court on Monday chose not to extend a temporary order to hide video of the alleged attack on Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel at the Assyrian Christ The Good Shepherd church on April 15.

The eSafety commissioner took X Corp to court in an attempt to force the platform to take down about 60 instances of the footage from the night that the social network had agreed to geoblock.

It came after the social platform rebuffed orders by eSafety and its commissioner Julie Grant to conform to a removal notice that would have removed the content from the site world wide.

Returning to court on Wednesday, lawyer Christopher Tran, who is representing the regulator, said there was no longer an urgency to take the matter to a hearing and agreed on a date in July.

“Much of the urgency of the case has fallen away in circumstances where there’s no injunction in place,” Mr Tran told Justice Geoffrey Kennett, referring to the now-nixed temporary order.

Mr Tran also sought to allay concerns raised by X Corp’s representatives that it could face fines for continued noncompliance with the removal notice during the ongoing court proceedings.

“I appreciate from my learned friend’s side (X Corp) has said, and it’s accurate, that under the Regulatory Powers Act, each day of noncompliance is an ongoing contravention,” he said.

“That’s a little bit more theoretical than real in this case … we expect the court would not be very inclined to penalise (X Corp) in respect of those days where the litigation has been on foot.”

While the date for the two-day hearing was agreed upon for July 24-25, Mr Tran noted the possibility that it may need to be reconsidered following pleadings and parallel proceedings.

Mr Tran told the court that ongoing proceedings launched by X Corp in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal that seek to challenge the notice could also potentially impact the outcome.

The court was also told further written submissions would be presented to the court by 5pm on Friday afternoon in regard to orders made by Justice Kennett the previous Friday.

X’s billionaire owner Elon Musk threatened to sue the regulator over the removal notice before eSafety successfully applied to the court to hide the content from April 22.

Counsel for the eSafety commissioner, Tim Begbie, earlier told the court that if X’s defiance led to a lapse of the court’s orders then “what that says about the authority of the court is pretty striking”.

For his part, lawyer Bret Walker, who represented X on Friday, said the company had not complied with the injunction because the initial take-down notice was not valid.

Under the Online Safety Act, Ms Grant has the power to demand the removal of so-called “class 1 material”, with failure to do so potentially incurring fines.

Ms Grant previously argued that geoblocking of the content was not sufficient, while X Corp and Musk questioned the validity of global take-down orders in public statements.

Musk claimed “The Australian censorship commissar” was “demanding *global* content bans”, while X in a statement said the “order was not within the scope of Australian law”.

Read related topics:Elon MuskSydney

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