Wednesday 24 April 2024

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel wants footage of his stabbing in Wakeley church to stay online, court hears

Teenager charged with terrorism over stabbing attack on TikToker Sydney  bishop | Arab News

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, the victim of a stabbing at a church in Wakeley, says footage of his attack should remain online, the federal court has heard.

The court met again on Wednesday to consider a dispute between eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant and social media platform X over the attack footage.

Ms Inman Grant last week issued a legal order to take down a few dozen instances of the footage posted on X. But X said it was an overreach to expect the videos to be hidden worldwide.

Lawyers for eSafety then took the matter to court, accusing X of defying its order. On Monday, Justice Geoffrey Kennett issued an injunction ordering X to hide the posts in question temporarily pending further consideration. X did not comply.

But in today's hearing, X lawyer Marcus Hoyne repeated the argument that the global reach of the eSafety commissioner was "exorbitant".

He also argued it was pointless, since footage of the attack had now spread far beyond the few dozen URLs originally identified by the eSafety commissioner.

He suggested this was a case of "Streisand effect", a phenomenon where the attempt to quash something backfires by drawing attention to it.

Mr Hoyne told the court Bishop Emmanuel, the victim of the attack, was "strongly of the view" that the footage should stay online. He said Bishop Emmanuel had provided an affidavit to that effect, which he submitted to the court but which the ABC has not seen. The ABC has contacted Bishop Emmanuel for comment.

He said X believed the eSafety commissioner's original order needed to be reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which can overturn decisions of government officials.

Justice Kennett ordered that the matter be heard again on 10 May, a date when X indicated it would be prepared to make more detailed arguments.

He ordered that his Monday injunction be extended until that date, but did not directly address X's apparent failure to comply with the original injunction.

The injunction applies to the same set of URLs originally identified by the eSafety commissioner, not to any subsequent posts including the footage.


The eSafety commissioner has the power to demand the removal of so-called 'class 1 material'.

That includes depictions of violent crime, child sex offences, or other "revolting or abhorrent phenomena [that] offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults".

But X's resistance has honed in on the question of whether those orders apply to content anywhere in the world, or simply to content visible to Australian users.

X argued it was sufficient to 'geo-block' the URLs, hiding them from Australian users specifically. But lawyers for eSafety argued this could be too easily circumvented by Australians using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which obscures geographical location, and so global action was required.

But X owner Elon Musk argued this could have broader implications, allowing "any country [to] control the entire Internet?".

Timothy Webb, a tech law specialist at law firm Clayton Utz, said that even if this approach were successful, it would leave the regulator playing "whack-a-mole" with a non-compliant social media platform, since its order covers specific URLs, meaning it would have to keep issuing fresh orders every time a new person shared the same footage.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the eSafety commissioner noted "it may be difficult to eradicate damaging content from the internet entirely, particularly as users continue to repost it."

"eSafety requires platforms to do everything practical and reasonable to minimise the harm it may cause to Australians and the Australian community."