by Lisa Vaas

In the wake of last month’s massacre at two mosques in New Zealand, Australia has passed sweeping legislation (PDF) that threatens huge fines for social media companies and jail time for their executives if they don’t promptly remove “abhorrent violent material” from their platforms.
Such content includes videos depicting terrorist acts, murders, attempted murders, torture, rape or kidnap.
The Guardian reports that Labor opposition joined forces with the ruling Liberal-National Coalition to pass the law on Thursday, despite warning that, in spite of what the government is promising, the legislation – the Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material Act – won’t allow for prosecution of social media execs.
The legislation stipulates that criminal penalties apply to content service providers that have “reasonable grounds to believe” they host such prohibited content if they don’t give police a heads-up about it “within a reasonable time after becoming aware of the existence of the material” or if they fail to “ensure the expeditious removal of the material from the content service.”
The penalties for individuals who “provide a hosting service” and fail to remove material can be up to three years in jail, a AUD $2.1m fine, or both. Labor believes these penalties won’t apply to social media execs because their companies, and not the individuals themselves, provide the service.
Corporate penalties range up to AUD $10.5m or 10% of annual turnover. But again, Labor says there don’t appear to be provisions for the law to punish executives for the actions of others in their social media companies.
The tech industry is strongly opposed to the law: they believe it may criminalize anybody in their companies for failing to promptly remove violent content.
Australia’s attorney general Christian Porter considers the act “most likely a world first.” It …

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Author: Lisa Vaas

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