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Australia’s Orwellian eSafety Commissioner orders removal of bishop stabbing videos from social media

Julie Inman Grant bishop Emmanuel

Australia’s censorship czar has ordered Meta and X to remove video footage and photos of the stabbing of a popular Christian leader in Sydney on Monday evening.

ESafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, an unelected American-born bureaucrat who earns a taxpayer-funded salary of more than $445,000 a year, said on Tuesday that she had issued the social media platforms with removal notices.

The companies face fines that Ms Inman Grant said would vary depending the level of noncompliance with the notices, which demand the removal of content that contains “gratuitous or offensive violence with a high degree of impact or detail” within 24 hours.

The video and imagery depicts the stabbing of Bishop Emmanuel Mar Mari, allegedly by a 16-year-old Muslim extremist, inside The Church of The Good Shepherd in Wakeley in Sydney’s west. The terror attack was caught on livestream, and violent scenes erupted outside the church afterwards.

Julie Inman Grant eSafety Commissioner
Julie Inman Grant (7 News)

“This is really devastating content that cannot be unseen and can cause serious emotional, mental and psychological damage,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“While the majority of mainstream social media platforms have engaged with us, I am not satisfied enough is being done to protect Australians from this most extreme and gratuitous violent material circulating online.

“That is why I am exercising my powers under the Online Safety Act to formally compel them to remove it.”

She went on to say she would use all “powers at her disposal” if the social media giants did not comply.

Social media users from Australia and abroad criticised the decision of Ms Inman Grant, who last month came under fire for demanding Canadian activist Billboard Chris remove an X post calling an influential female World Health Organisation policymaker a woman.

Melbourne journalist Rukshan Fernando wrote: “Censorship loving eSafety Office attempting to hide specific videos of terrorist attacks in Australia from the public.

“Considering there is even more violent videos available online of crimes, war and terrorism, seems like these requests are designed to keep Australians in the dark and the government in full control of the narrative around the incident. Disgusting.”

Ian Miles Cheong, who is based in Malaysia and posted video of the stabbing on his X account, shared a copy of a notice he received, but asked whether he was being singled out for being an independent journalist.

“The Australian eSafety commissioner wants me to delete all videos and photos of the two mass stabbing in Sydney, as if it can somehow hide the news from being disseminated,” he wrote.

“Did news agencies receive the same notice, or just citizen journalists on X?”

Meta told The Guardian it had taken steps to block users from uploading new versions of the stabbing video, which it had begun deleting.

Earlier on Tuesday Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was concerned about the videos and was working to get them removed, and confirmed that he thought social media was creating “real difficulties” for social cohesion in the wake of the violent scenes after the bishop was stabbed.

But despite the terror attack and simmering tensions between the Muslim and Christian communities in Sydney’s west, Mr Albanese claimed in a radio interview that “one of the great strengths of Australia is our diversity” and monents said “our strength is our diversity”.

Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil said in a statement after the terror attack: “I have been receiving briefings from our agencies overnight about the shocking incident at Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley.

“Police are continuing their investigations but our thoughts are with those who were injured, their families and community, as well as with the first responders who attended to the victims and restored order last night.

“Australia’s most valuable asset is our social cohesion. In tough times we must come together.”

Hours later NSW Premier Chris Minns warned that “misinformation spreads disharmony and impedes police investigation” and said it was more important than ever that “our communities come together”.

White advocate Joel Davis said on Telegram: “The Australian government is now censoring video evidence of terrorism off the internet because they don’t want you getting upset about it.”

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