Australian PM calls X's fight against removal of church stabbing posts 'extraordinary'

FILE PHOTO: Aftermath of a knife attack at the Assyrian Christ The Good Shepherd Church, in Sydney

By Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described as "extraordinary" on Monday a decision by social media platform X to challenge in court a cyber regulators' order for the removal of some posts about the stabbing of a bishop in Sydney.

Police have charged a 16-year-old with a terrorism offence in the attack on an Assyrian church bishop, Mar Mari Emmanuel, last Monday. Videos online showed the attacker, restrained by the congregation, shouting at the bishop for insulting Islam.

Albanese criticised the broadcast of violent images and said some social media content exacerbated the pain of many people.

"I find it extraordinary that X chose not to comply and are trying to argue their case," Albanese told a press conference, adding that X's response to the order by a government panel contrasted with that of other social media providers.

"This isn't about freedom of expression," Albanese said.

"This is about the dangerous implications that can occur when things that are simply not true ... are replicated and weaponised in order to cause division."

In this case, the promotion of negative statements had the potential to inflame a very difficult situation, he added.

The Australian panel, known as the eSafety Commissioner, works to remove harmful online content. It had ordered X to remove certain posts that "publicly commented" on the attack.

But X responded that the posts did not violate its rules on violent speech, adding that the regulator had no authority to dictate content its users can see globally, an approach it vowed to challenge in court as being "unlawful and dangerous".

"The Australian censorship commissar is demanding *global* content bans!" entrepreneur Elon Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion in 2022 and renamed it as X last year, said in a post.

Several lawmakers have criticised social media for not doing enough to remove misinformation over the stabbing.

Last year the regulator said X had become Australia's top platform for online hate since Musk lifted bans on a reported 62,000 accounts.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)