The Australian eSafety Commissioner has officially withdrawn its Federal Court action against X, formerly known as Twitter. 

This case centred on efforts to remove or block access to a video depicting a stabbing, which had been hosted on the social media platform.

Initially, the Commissioner secured a temporary block on certain X URLs. However, this was later overturned by the court. 

Subsequently, the eSafety Commissioner considered alternative methods to prevent Australians from accessing the video, including blocking access via virtual private networks (VPNs). 

Ultimately, the decision was made to discontinue the Federal Court proceedings entirely.

Instead, the lawfulness of the content removal notice issued to X will now be evaluated by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). 

The Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, stated that consolidating all action into a single AAT case was considered the best course of action. 

“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,” said Inman Grant.

She also expressed her support for the decisions taken to block or remove access to the video. 

“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.”

In a statement, X welcomed the discontinuation of the case, asserting that the issue raised important questions about the use of legal powers to potentially censor global speech. 

“We welcome the news that the eSafety commissioner is no longer pursuing legal action against X seeking the global removal of content that does not violate X’s rules,” the company said. 

“This case has raised important questions on how legal powers can be used to threaten global censorship of speech, and we are heartened to see that freedom of speech has prevailed.”

Inman Grant said the Federal Court case has been useful in testing the Commissioner's “novel” regulatory powers under Australia's Online Safety Act. 

“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,” she stated.

The Commissioner said eSafety is committed to holding tech companies accountable under the Online Safety Act. 

“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,” she affirmed. “We will not waver from this commitment.”

The shift to the AAT is expected to provide a thorough and independent review of the eSafety Commissioner's decision to issue a removal notice to X Corp, thus potentially setting a significant precedent for future actions related to online content regulation in Australia.