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Australia's New Social Media Law

Glenn Duker

· Australia,Glenn Duker,Litigation,Business Law,Law

Australian legislature has called for the criminalization of violent content shared online, much to the criticism of major media outlets. The law proposal is a response to the Christchurch terrorist shooting that took place at two mosques and left 50 people dead. The entire attack was live-streamed on Facebook.

"These platforms should not be weaponized for these purposes,” said Christan Porter, Australia’s attorney general. He called for internet platforms to take responsibility for the "spread of abhorrent violent material," which can so easily terrorize and traumatize viewers around the world.

The Demand for Greater Regulation

According to Porter, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook should not air graphic, violent material the same way a television broadcast would not. The proposed The Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material bill creates offenses for content services providers that do not report graphic material to the Australian federal police or "expediously remove content" from their servers.

Along with the bill comes a new regime for the eSafety Commissioner to notify social media companies that their platforms are hosting violent and graphic content that needs to be removed immediately. If a company like Facebook fails to respond and allows something like a murderous rampage Livestream to be hosted for a long period of time, legal consequences will follow.

The bill defines "abhorrent violent media" as anything involving terrorist attacks, murders, rape or kidnapping. Failure to report and/or remove such material within an allotted time frame could result in a fine of up to 10 percent of a company's annual revenue and a maximum three-year jail sentence for employees.


Sunita Bose, the managing director of the Digital Industry Group, expresses her concern over the fact that the bill creates "immediate uncertainty" for employees in the tech industry. Although no one wants such material streamed online, she explains that removal is a complex task given the amount of volume that is uploaded every second.

Seconding Bose's thoughts is Scott Farquhar, the chief executive of software company Atlassian. He tweeted, "If the material in question is uploaded and you don’t take it down “expeditiously”, you can go to jail. What is expeditiously? Not defined! “Who” in a company? Not defined!"

Most people employed in the tech industry agree that faster response protocol should be in place, but many are worried that a lack of consideration to the work involved in eliminating thousands of copies of such material online. With jobs and even lives on the line, it begs the question as to how much control the government should have over the internet and what types of collaborations are necessary to strike a balance between legality and pragmatism.

**This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. In relation to your individual situation, always seek advice specific to your circumstances from a lawyer.

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