SYDNEY – The Australian Parliament approved on Thursday an amendment to impose harsher penalties, including prison sentences, on social media managers who publish horrific content on their platforms, a measure that came as a response to the recent twin mosque attacks in New Zealand.
The controversial measure approved prison sentences of up to three years for executives of technology companies, who do not immediately delete contents pertaining to terrorist acts, murders, rapes, torture and kidnappings, or imposing 10 percent fine on the company’s annual turnover.
“The events of Christchurch have shown us that internet platforms can be used to spread messages of hate and terror,” Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter said at the Parliament to justify the legislation.
“This bill forms an important part of the Australian government’s response to these events,” he further added.
The law, which was approved on Thursday by the House of Representatives after it was passed by the Senate on Wednesday, requires companies anywhere in the world to notify the Australian Federal Police once they perceive that violent material is being distributed through their broadcast services in Australia.
Despite securing bipartisan support, the law was criticized by the Labour Party, who alleged that not enough time was devoted to examining the changes, reported public broadcasting service SBS on Thursday.
Labour’s Mark Dreyfus said that social media giants such as Facebook will have to do more in effectively dealing with violent material published on its platform and that numerous other smaller companies will also be put through the new law’s scanner.
On March 15, Australian Brenton Tarrant had killed 50 people and wounded another 50 in an attack on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.
He had broadcast the attacks live on Facebook for 17 minutes and had also published a manifesto of more than 70 pages containing his extremist ideas on social media.
Following the massacre, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, had urged that there was an imminent need to silence these hate messages.
Following the attack, Facebook withdrew the attack video that was shared 1.5 million times, while YouTube had taken down tens of thousands more.