Published: Sat, April 06, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Australian Law Could Result in Jail Time for Social Media Executives

Australian Law Could Result in Jail Time for Social Media Executives

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.

"It is important that we make a very clear statement to social media companies that we expect their behaviour to change", Mitch Fifield, Australia's minister for communications and the arts, told reporters in Canberra.

The law has made it a crime for social media platforms not to remove "abhorrent violent material", defined as acts of terrorism, murder, torture, rape or kidnapping.

The Law Council of Australia says it is concerned the "legislation is being thought up on the run without any proper consultation". The law could even slap individuals running hosting services with a $2.1 million fine or send them to prison for up to three years.

The bill could potentially undermine Australia's security cooperation with the United States by requiring US internet providers to share content data with Australian Federal Police in breach of USA law, Dreyfus said.

Platforms anywhere in the world must notify the Australian Federal Police if they become aware their service is streaming abhorrent violent conduct that is happening in Australia.

Facebook and Google won't be losing any sleep about Australia's latest social media crackdown.

The opposition Labor party supported the law, but said it would order a review if it wins the next election, due to be held next month.

Attorney General Christian Porter said Thursday that the new penalty regime would target social media firms and clamp down on the circulation of content that broadcasts violent crimes. "There are platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook who do not seem to take their responsibility to not show the most abhorrently violent material seriously", Porter told reporters.

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The Digital Industry Group, an advocacy organisation whose members include Facebook, Google and Twitter, said the legislation should have been based on discussion with the technology industry, legal experts, the media and civil society to "get the solution right".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison proposed the laws for the first time last week.

The Labor party combined with the Coalition to pass the law, despite Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus saying that the legislation was "poorly drafted" earlier this week.

The group's managing director, Ms Sunita Bose, said the law failed to deal with hate speech, which had motivated the Christchurch gunman.

Facebook took down 1.5 million posts of the footage of the Christchurch shootings but says none of the 200 people who watched the live video of the massacre immediately reported it.

Critics said the bill, which passed in the legislature's last days before upcoming elections set for May, was rushed through the process.

"As of today, any person working at any company (globally) that allows users to upload videos or images could go to jail", Farquhar tweeted.

"As we know, laws formulated as a knee-jerk reaction to a tragic event do not necessarily equate to good legislation and can have myriad unintended consequences", he said on Thursday.

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