Christchurch shootings prompt new laws for social media platforms in Australia

7:02 pm on 26 March 2019

New laws that would make it illegal for social media companies to leave videos filmed by terrorists on their sites are being drafted by the Australian government after the Christchurch shootings threw the debate about social media regulation into the spotlight.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison briefs media about the flooding situation in Queensland. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Photo: AFP

Footage of the massacre was broadcast live for 17 minutes on social media before it was removed, and just three days after the attack Facebook had taken 1.5 million videos of the attack down from its site.

The terrorist's broadcast prompted world leaders to call for a global crackdown on social media, with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing a royal commission into the attack would look at the role social media played.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will meet with social media executives on Tuesday to discuss the laws, which would focus on videos filmed by perpetrators of extreme violence.

"We need to prevent social media platforms being weaponised with terror content," he said.

"If social media companies fail to demonstrate a willingness to immediately institute changes to prevent the use of their platforms, like what was filmed and shared by the perpetrators of the terrible offences in Christchurch, we will take action.

"We are considering all options to keep Australian safe."

Individual executives could be found liable

The proposed legislation would be modelled on existing laws that require social media companies to take down child exploitation material and notify police if people upload it.

The new laws would force social media companies to remove violent terrorist footage as soon as they are notified it is on their platform, and they would face escalating penalties, meaning the longer a platform allowed the content to remain on their site, the greater the punishment would be.

Ultimately if the offence was proved, individual social media executives could be found personally liable - provided they were based in Australia.

Mr Morrison has also penned a letter to the chair of June's G20 summit in Osaka, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, calling for the issue of social media governance to be added to the top of the agenda.

He said it was "unacceptable to treat the internet as an ungoverned space".


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