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4 Apr, 2019 08:39

Australia threatens tech giants with jail, fines for spread of violent content after Christchurch

Australia threatens tech giants with jail, fines for spread of violent content after Christchurch

Internet service providers and social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Google are now facing colossal fines and even jail time for senior executives for failing to remove violent content under a new law passed in Australia.

The legislation, which was passed by the Australian parliament on Thursday, compels the internet behemoths to remove violent content or face stiff penalties. The move comes in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks in neighboring New Zealand, in which the fatal shooting of some 50 people was broadcast live on Facebook.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of copies of the video were disseminated across social media, sending tech giants scrambling to contain the spread of the disturbing footage.

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Executives at the companies face up to three years in jail while the companies may face fines of up to 10 percent of the platform’s annual turnover.

The law passed despite opposition from several lawmakers and industry lobby groups who warned of knee-jerk legislation with far-reaching, “serious unintended consequences,” according to the Law Council of Australia.

“Of course, in the wake of Christchurch, we need to look at how we regulate social media and online content,” Sen. Richard Di Natale, leader of the Australian Greens party, said in the Senate on Wednesday. “But you don’t go about this by introducing legislation that the parliament can’t even debate and scrutinize. And it’s all done with the support of a compliant Labor Party.”

“The tragedy in Christchurch just over two weeks ago brought this issue to a head,” Australian Attorney General Christian Porter said in a statement.

“It was clear from our discussions last week with social media companies, particularly Facebook, that there was no recognition of the need for them to act urgently to protect their own users from the horror of the live streaming of the Christchurch massacre and other violent crimes, and so the [government] has taken action with this legislation.”

The timing of the legislation is somewhat conspicuous as the Australian federal elections must be held before May 18, and many are concerned about the manner in which the sweeping law was passed.

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