Musk says X will appeal Australian injunction on church stabbing videos

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (C) stands with New South Wales Premier Chris Minns (4th R) and other officials as they prepare to leave flowers outside the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping mall in Sydney on April 14, 2024. [AFP]

Elon Musk said Tuesday that his social media platform X will appeal against an Australian injunction forcing it to take down videos of a church stabbing in Sydney.

Australia's internet watchdog secured an injunction late Monday, forcing X to hide videos that allegedly show a Sydney bishop being slashed in the head during a live-streamed sermon.

X ignored earlier Australian pleas to remove the images, and Musk had said the company would appeal against the injunction on free speech grounds.

"Our concern is that if ANY country is allowed to censor content for ALL countries, which is what the Australian 'eSafety Commissar' is demanding, then what is to stop any country from controlling the entire Internet," the tech billionaire posted on X.

"We have already censored the content in question for Australia, pending legal appeal, and it is stored only on servers in the USA," he added.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Musk was an "arrogant billionaire" who was blind to the distress caused by the videos.

"We'll do what's necessary to take on this arrogant billionaire who thinks he's above the law, but also above common decency," Albanese told public broadcaster ABC.

"The idea that someone would go to court for the right to put up violent content on a platform shows how out-of-touch Mr Musk is."

Australia's eSafety Commission was granted a late-night injunction compelling X to remove the church stabbing footage for two days, pending further arguments.

X had blocked the videos in Australia, but they could still be seen by users in other parts of the world.

'Toxicity and hate'

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was allegedly slashed in the head and chest by a 16-year-old suspect last week, sparking a riot by followers of the Assyrian Christian church in western Sydney.

Video of the bloody attack, which spread widely on social media platforms, has been blamed by Australian authorities for feeding tensions in the community.

Australia has spearheaded efforts to hold the tech giants accountable for what their users post online, under its groundbreaking "Online Safety Act" passed in 2021.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant -- a former Twitter employee -- has been fighting a series of legal skirmishes with X, attempting to hold the platform accountable for violent and disturbing content.

She has raised concerns in the past about a spike in "toxicity and hate" on the platform following Musk's takeover.

The watchdog recently slapped X with an Aus$610,500 (US$388,000) fine for failing to demonstrate how it is combatting child sexual abuse content.

X, formerly known as Twitter, launched its own legal action in a bid to contest the fine.