In the wake of the white supremacist terrorist atrocity in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month in which 50 people were killed and 50 more were injured, the Australian government has passed strict new laws around the type of content that can be streamed on social media channels. This was in response to the terrorist in New Zealand live-streaming the attacks.
The bill was rushed through the Australian parliament before the campaigning period for May elections begins. “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 weaponized for evil,” Attorney General Christian Porter told parliament when introducing the bill.
Social media platforms will have a duty to swiftly remove “abhorrent violent material”, with senior executives facing three-year prison sentences and the companies possibly being hit with fines of Aus $10.5m dollars or 10% of the company’s annual turnover (whichever is highest).
Meanwhile, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport in the UK is proposing a new code of practice that tech companies will have to adhere to relating to what is termed “online harm” – including terrorist content, child abuse, harassment, fake news and revenge pornography. Senior executives at social platforms could also be held liable for breaches according to the proposals. Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Secretary Jeremy Wright said, “The era of self-regulation for online companies is over. Voluntary actions from industry to tackle online harms have not been applied consistently or gone far enough.” Critics of the proposals have called them an “historic attack” on freedom of speech.