Australia Law Bans Violent Content on Social Media

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Regulators in Australia are cracking down on social media sites in the aftermath of the deadly shooting at two mosques in Christchurch that killed 50 people, according to Reuters.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019 would prohibit social media sites and internet or hosting services from allowing “abhorrent violent material.” Such material would include any audio, visual or audio-visual material “that records or streams abhorrent violent conduct engaged in by one or more persons and is material that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, offensive,” regardless of whether the material was altered or the content had occurred outside of Australia, the Act states.

The Act additionally defines abhorrent violent conduct as a person engaging in any act of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, torture, rape or kidnapping another person. The penalties for offenses range from monetary fines to imprisonment.

Social media sites received quite a bit of backlash after videos of the deadly shooting went viral and remained available for 20 minutes after the shooting, according to the House of Parliament

"The relevant footage was broadcast for 17 minutes without interruption and it was another 12 minutes after that point in time that the first user report on the original video was received by Facebook. The material was live-streamed on Facebook and available on that platform for almost an hour and 10 minutes until the first attempts were made to take it down. Simply put, we find that unacceptable."

After the law was passed, Australia’s attorney general, Christian Porter, said in a press conference, “This is most likely a world first in terms of legislating the conduct of social media and online platforms,” according to The Guardian.

“I would make the observation that appeared to us as a government that there was a near unanimous view among Australians that social media platforms had to take more responsibility for their content, that they could not and should not and the law should prevent them from live streaming or playing acts of the most horrendous violence and there was an expectation that the government would move urgently to ensure that such a law existed which is precisely what we have done today.”

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