Statement from the eSafety Commissioner re: Federal Court proceedings

Today I have decided to consolidate action concerning my Class 1 removal notice to X Corp in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. 
After weighing multiple considerations, including litigation across multiple cases, I have considered this option likely to achieve the most positive outcome for the online safety of all Australians, especially children.

As a result, I have decided to discontinue the proceedings in the Federal Court against X Corp in relation to the matter of extreme violent material depicting the real-life graphic stabbing of a religious leader at Wakeley in Sydney on 15 April 2024.

We now welcome the opportunity for a thorough and independent merits review of my decision to issue a removal notice to X Corp by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Our sole goal and focus in issuing our removal notice was to prevent this extremely violent footage from going viral, potentially inciting further violence and inflicting more harm on the Australian community. I stand by my investigators and the decisions eSafety made.

Most Australians accept this kind of graphic material should not be on broadcast television, which begs an obvious question of why it should be allowed to be distributed freely and accessible online 24/7 to anyone, including children.

Indeed, a key issue of concern for me throughout this process, was the ease by which children were able to access this extremely violent stabbing video on X.

As the national online safety regulator, I expect responsible companies to be taking action in relation to this type of content.

And by its own admission, X Corp routinely does. In a recent Digital Services Act transparency guide prepared by X Corp for the European Commission, X Corp said it took action on 226,000 items of content following reports of illegality and “globally deleted 40,000 items of content”. 

X Corp’s CEO also told the European Commission in October that:

“...our service has clear rules that prohibit violent and hateful entities, perpetrators of violent attacks, violent speech, sensitive media and the synthetic and manipulated media policy.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we strictly adhere to our policies concerning illegal content and we continue to remove illegal content, including terrorist content, from our platform.”

Other major social media platforms and search engines complied with our requests and notices, including Meta, Microsoft, Google, Tik Tok, Reddit and Telegram.

So, it was a reasonable expectation when we made our request to remove extremely graphic video of an attack, that X Corp would take action in line with these publicly stated policies and practices.  

Through this process, eSafety has also welcomed the opportunity to test its novel regulatory powers - set out under Australia’s Online Safety Act - to protect Australians from online harm. We also welcome the Government’s Online Safety Act review currently open for public submissions, and the recently announced select committee inquiry into social media.

eSafety remains committed to exercising the full range of provisions available under the Online Safety Act to hold all tech companies to account without fear or favour, ensuring they comply with the laws of Australia and prioritise the safety and wellbeing of all Australians. We will not waver from this commitment.  

This statement was updated on 6 June 2024

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