Australia Passes Social Media Law about Violent Content

On March 15, 2019, a gunman attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 people.

Adding to the horror was that the gunman Facebook livestreamed the terror attack, which was up for over an hour and viewed over 4,000 times before Facebook removed it.

Later, that same video was shared millions of times on Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites.

Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has said that the hour-long posting of the attack is completely unacceptable. In response, Australia has made it an illegal matter if violent content is not removed expeditiously from social media sites.

Specifically, Australia’s parliament has agreed that the country will pursue serious repercussions against social media companies who continue to post and promote violence.

What is at stake for these social media companies? Their lack of response could now earn them fines up to 10 percent of the social media company’s annual global turnover and executive imprisonment of up to three years.

It is illegal for companies operating in Australia — such as Facebook and YouTube — to not remove content which shows torture, rape or murder without delay.

Additionally, the new Australian law notes that social media companies must actively inform police within a reasonable timeframe. While no set time limit is defined, any tried cases will have juries decide if the companies responded quickly enough or not.

As Mitch Fifield, Australia’s minister for communications and arts, said: “It is important that we make a very clear statement to social media companies that we expect their behavior to change.”

Beyond Australia, Britain has also said that social media companies — such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — will face massive fines or even be banned if they don’t remove harmful content quickly enough. It seems that holding social media companies accountable is becoming a global movement.