Australia to block extremist material online during crises

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, seen here reviewing a guard of honour while in Vietnam last week, says Australia intends to prevent extremists from exploiting digital platforms to post extremely violent content. PHOTO: REUTERS
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, seen here reviewing a guard of honour while in Vietnam last week, says Australia intends to prevent extremists from exploiting digital platforms to post extremely violent content.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY • Australia will block access to Internet domains hosting terrorist material during crisis events and will consider legislation to force digital platforms to improve the safety of their services, officials said yesterday.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is in France to take part in the Group of Seven leaders' forum, said the government intended to prevent extremists from exploiting digital platforms to post extremely violent content.

"We are doing everything we can to deny terrorists the opportunity to glorify their crimes," he said in a statement.

Australia and New Zealand have increased scrutiny of websites and social media companies in the wake of the Christchurch massacre in March, when 51 worshippers were killed in attacks on two New Zealand mosques.

The attack was live-streamed by alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant over Facebook.

The Australian government said it will establish a framework to block domains hosting such material.

Australia's eSafety Commissioner will determine on a case-by-case basis what should be censored and was working with the industry on arrangements to quickly block access during an attack.

A 24/7 Crisis Coordination Centre will be established to monitor the online world for extreme violence or terrorist material.

PREVENTING GLORIFICATION

We are doing everything we can to deny terrorists the opportunity to glorify their crimes.

AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON

The government did not elaborate on what legislative options would be used if digital platforms failed to improve safety.

Technology giants, including Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter, along with telecommunications companies Telstra, Vodafone, TPG and Optus, are expected to provide details to the government by the end of next month on how they will carry out the proposals.

The firms are all members of the Taskforce to Combat Terrorist and Extreme Violent Material Online, which had recommended that a clear framework be established.

It was not immediately clear how the move would affect media reporting of terror attacks or civil unrest.

 
 

SKY Network Television was fined NZ$4,000 (S$3,550) by New Zealand's Broadcasting Standards Authority for showing during its news broadcast a number of edited clips taken from the alleged Christchurch attacker's 17-minute live-stream video.

The regulator said that while the broadcast was newsworthy, the clips contained disturbing violent content that could cause distress or glorify the alleged attacker and promote his messages.

REUTERS

Correction note: Due to a source error in an earlier story, Sky News New Zealand was identified as having been fined instead of SKY Network Television. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2019, with the headline 'Australia to block extremist material online during crises'. Print Edition | Subscribe