Australian leader criticizes X for failing to remove church violence content

Albanese said social media posts, misinformation and dissemination of violent images had exacerbated suffering from the Christ the Good Shepherd Church attack.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese carries a candle during a candlelight vigil at Sydney’s Bondi Beach to remember victims of a knife attack at a nearby shopping mall, Australia, Sunday, April 21, 2024. An assailant was shot and killed by a police officer on April 13, after he stabbed six people to death and wounded more than a dozen others in an attack that police believe targeted women. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday criticized social media platform X for refusing to remove graphic posts about a knife attack on a bishop and priest in a Sydney church last week.

X Corp., the tech company founded last year by billionaire Elon Musk to succeed Twitter, announced last week it would fight in court Australian orders to take down posts relating to a knife attack on a bishop in an Assyrian Orthodox church as a service was being streamed online.

Albanese said social media posts, misinformation and dissemination of violent images had exacerbated suffering from the Christ the Good Shepherd Church attack, which the two clerics survived, and a knife attack at a Sydney shopping mall two days earlier which killed six people.

He said he was surprised that X was fighting in the Australian Federal Court orders to take down violent content from Australia’s eSafety Commission, which describes itself as the world’s first government agency dedicated to keeping people safer online.

“Social media has a social responsibility,” Albanese told reporters. “I find it extraordinary that X chose not to comply and are trying to argue their case.”

The platform’s Global Government Affairs team said on Saturday Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant had ordered it to remove some posts that commented on the church attack, but it said the posts did not violate X’s rules on violent speech.

X said the Australian regulator had demanded the platform “globally withhold these posts or face a daily fine of $785,000.”

“X believes that eSafety’s order was not within the scope of Australian law and we complied with the directive pending a legal challenge,” the Global Government Affairs account said.

“While X respects the right of a country to enforce its laws within its jurisdiction, the eSafety Commissioner does not have the authority to dictate what content X’s users can see globally,” it said.

“We will robustly challenge this unlawful and dangerous approach in court,” it added.

The material is geoblocked from Australia but remains available elsewhere.

The live feed of the church attack and social media posts that followed attracted a crowd of 2,000 people and fueled a riot against police, who barricaded the young suspected attacker inside the place of worship.

The rioting injured 51 police officers and damaged 104 police vehicles, officials said.

Three alleged rioters had been arrested by Sunday and police on Monday released images of 12 suspects they accuse of being the main instigators of the violence, taken from video of the riot.

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