QCAT’s historic ruling in Muslim group’s legal battle with Elon Musk’s X

QCAT’s historic ruling in Muslim group’s legal battle with Elon Musk’s X

Social media giant
The decision is a victory for the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN), which in June 2022 accusing X (then known as Twitter) of being responsible for a far-right conspiracy group posting a series of Islamophobic comments about Muslims being “an existential threat” to the world.
AMAN’s complaint to the commission, reported three times in 2021, reported 419 content published by “certain accounts that incited hatred, serious ridicule or serious contempt for the Muslim community.”
He argued that X— — had violated Section 124A of the state’s Anti-Discrimination Law, which prohibits “defamation based on race, religion, sexuality, sexual characteristics or unlawful gender identity.”
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) heard the matter in September last year. AMAN’s lawyers argued that the social media company should be liable for Islamophobic posts, while X’s legal team argued that it was a “true foreign entity” and therefore not subject to the court’s jurisdiction.
X’s lawyers had also argued that the section of the law should not apply to him because he is a company, not a person.
But on Tuesday, the court ruled that X was subject to its jurisdiction and could make orders against him based on AMAN’s complaint.
“This is the first legal victory of its kind against a social media company under Australian defamation laws, which will have consequences for all social media companies operating in Australia,” an AMAN spokesperson said in a statement.
“In Australia protections apply to social media companies, and hate speech is governed by clear standards, not corporate discretion.”

In her decision, Ann Fitzpatrick, a senior member of QCAT, deduced that some of X’s advertising revenue came from Queensland advertisers.

A person holding a smartphone with the X Corp logo on the screen.

The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network has launched legal action against X over Islamophobic content that was shared on the social media platform. Fountain: getty / SOPA Images

He wrote that there were “sufficient grounds to conclude that X Corp’s business does not operate in isolation in the United States.”

AMAN legal counsel Rita Markwell told SBS News the ruling showed local laws applied to social media companies.

“The reasons set out by the court make it clear that if the harm occurs locally and there is a global business that operates here (in Australia) in a way that collects data about users here and also generates advertising revenue here, then it is having a business here,” he said.

While QCAT has ruled that it can make orders against X, it has not yet decided on another issue: whether the content included in AMAN’s complaint amounted to defamation.
Markwell said it is unclear when the court will decide or order another hearing date for that element of the complaint. But if the ruling rules in favor of AMAN, he said X would likely face demolition orders.
“The biggest battleground in this case was whether the law applied to X… that was what X most wanted to fight with,” he said.
“The importance of this is that now any community that is affected by hate speech in Australia can with greater certainty make a complaint against a social media company for failing to moderate hate speech.”
The QCAT ruling would not apply in other jurisdictions, but Markwell said it would “carry weight” in other jurisdictions.
“When we were preparing this case there was no other precedent. This is the first of its kind,” he said.

X can appeal the court’s decisions through the Supreme Court of Queensland. Markwell said that if he decided to do this, AMAN’s legal team would “continue fighting.”

When we were preparing this case there was no other precedent. This is the first of its kind.

Rita Markwell, legal advisor at AMAN

SBS News has contacted X for comment. An automated response said: “Busy now, check back later.”
The QCAT decision comes after a federal court judge earlier this month requiring X to block clips from 65 websites that displayed a few seconds long graphic .
The eSafety Commissioner had ordered X to remove the material, but the company geo-blocked it, meaning Australian users could still view it if they used a virtual private network.

The court found the order requiring content removal for all Australians worldwide to be unreasonable.