Australia nanny state: Web access blocked over mosque attacks

Internet users in Australia will not be able to access eight websites that have defied directions to delete footage of New Zealand mosque attacks.

Australia’s internet service providers were ordered to block access to the websites after they continued to show footage from the deadly shootings at the mosques earlier this year.

(Image: Wikimedia)

The gunman killed over 50 people in the attack on Muslims attending Friday prayers in New Zealand’s Christchurch in March, broadcasting the video of his shooting spree on Facebook. Many websites where the footage was initially available quickly removed the video and any links.

Some sites, however, continued to make the footage available and Australia’s eSafety commissioner called them out in a statement on Sunday, according to Reuters.

“We cannot allow this heinous material to be used to promote, incite or instruct in further terrorist acts,” Julie Inman Grant said.

According to Reuters:

Australia in April passed legislation that allowed Canberra to fine social media companies up to 10% of their annual global turnover and imprison executives for up to three years if violent content is not removed “expeditiously”.

It is now an offense in Australia for companies such as Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google, which owns video sharing site YouTube, not to remove any videos or photographs that show murder, torture or rape without delay.

“There is no other country in the world that has a commission set up to protect the safety of its citizens and block abhorrent violent material from the Internet,” Grant told SBS Dateline.

The eSafety Commission will assess the websites after six months to determine whether the offending content has been removed before the ban can be lifted.

“The remaining rogue websites need only to remove the illegal content to have the block against them lifted,” Grant said.

“Most of the offenders are fringe websites hosting gore content and seek to incite violent,” she added. “A number of them also host children sexual abuse material. One is an anti-Islamic blog.”

While the premise to remove violent and offensive content online could be agreed upon by most, Australia’s law raised a lot of questions for many who criticized the “flawed” legislation when it was passed.

Billionaire co-founder of an enterprise software company, Scott Farquhar, slammed the law back in April.

“Website blocking is not a universal solution to online harms, but it is important that this option be available to the e-safety commissioner in extreme cases such as this,” communications minister, Paul Fletcher, said.

“This is a very high threshold we’re looking at in terms of terrorist content and violent crimes with the purpose of inciting further terrorism,” Grant said, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Australia has used the controversial new law — the first of its kind — to warn five websites they could face prosecution of they do not remove extremist content. Three of the five sites, which are all based outside Australia according to the the eSafety commission, removed the material, according to the Financial Times.

Sky Network Television in New Zealand was fined last month for airing “extensive excerpts from the alleged attacker’s live stream video,” alleging the video “had the potential to cause significant distress to audiences in New Zealand, and particularly to the family and friends of victims, and the wider Muslim community.”

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