Australia could jail social media executives for violent content

Brenton Tarrent facebook Christchurch

Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrent allegedly broadcast the terrorist attack in Christchurch live on Facebook.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Social media executives could face jail if their platforms stream footage of real violence, Australian lawmakers have warned.

The country’s conservative government introduced the legislation in response to the Christchurch attacks, during which an Australian white supremacist apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast his actions live on Facebook.

Although critics warned the new laws are among the most restrictive in the democratic world, they were passed with the support of the parliament’s two major parties.

Australian attorney general Christian Porter said: "Together we must act to ensure that perpetrators and their accomplices cannot leverage online platforms for the purpose of spreading their violent and extreme propaganda - these platforms should not be weaponised for evil."

The law has made it a crime for social media platforms not to remove "abhorrent violent material", defined as acts of terrorism, murder, torture, rape or kidnapping.

 The crime would be punishable by three years in prison and a fine of 10.5 million Australian dollars (£5.6 million), or 10% of the platform's annual turnover, whichever is larger.

Platforms anywhere in the world would face fines of up to 840,000 dollars (£450,500) if they fail to notify Australian Federal Police if they are aware their service was streaming such material occurring in Australia.

Industry professionals and civil rights groups were concerned the government had not consulted with a range of experts on the “highly complex problem”.

Digital Industry Group managing director Sunita Bose said: “This law, which was conceived and passed in five days without any meaningful consultation, does nothing to address hate speech, which was the fundamental motivation for the tragic Christchurch terrorist attacks.”

President of the Australian Law Council Arthur Moses meanwhile warned the “ill-informed” laws put “media freedom and whistleblowing of atrocities” at risk.

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