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Facebook and Google face new rules to respond to terrorist content online

Facebook and Google face new rules to respond to terrorist content online

April 5, 2019 » Today News »

The government has suggested a tough response to terrorist footage in a meeting with Facebook and Google, including livestream delays and hiring more moderators, as pressure mounts on the tech giants over extremist content online.

In the first meeting of the government-led taskforce on Friday afternoon in Canberra, the social media giants faced a lengthy discussion about delaying livestreams, hiring more moderators, scrutinising “nefarious” websites, and encouraging users to report objectionable videos.

The taskforce was formed after a heated meeting in Brisbane last month to help stop violent terrorist and extreme material on the internet after live footage of the Christchurch massacre was widely shared through social media and forums.

Australia’s largest telecommunications companies, Telstra, Vodafone Hutchison Australia and Singtel Optus, were called to the meeting with the government alongside Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter. Representatives from the media regulator, the Australian Federal Police and telco industry body Communications Alliance also attended.

One attendee said senior bureaucrats made it clear that as the government was about to enter caretaker mode it was “an unbridled opportunity to pull up our sleeves and do some real policy work”. The taskforce is expected to meet every second week until mid-May to create a framework about how to react in future.

Pre-briefing information provided to the digital platforms and telcos told them they could be expected to appear before a Parliamentary Committee to explain their actions if there was an ad hoc event where terrorist or extreme material was uploaded.

The meeting comes days after the government pushed for tougher penalties, like prison sentences and billions of dollars in fines, if terrorist content isn’t removed quickly on social media platforms. This legislation has been widely opposed by media organisations and the digital giants.

Multiple sources who were familiar with the meeting described it as largely “operational” and “productive”, though some of the digital platforms expressed their surprise at the speed of pushing through the legislation when they had believed the government wanted a co-operative approach.

Another option suggested by the government in documents provided to attendees was for the digital giants to provide Australia-specific reports on content moderation, and to make it easier to “report” violent videos.

The government also discussed new arrangements to direct which sites to block if violent terrorist content is kept online. After the Christchurch attacks, local telcos started blocking websites – such as 8Chan and LiveLeak – on a temporary basis until the footage was removed but they did so without guidance from government leading to some public concerns about censorship and the legal case for blocking.

Other proposals included social media companies and internet service providers having an Australian 24-hour point of contact for responding to law enforcement, ensuring predictive search doesn’t prompt people to look up live footage after a terrorist attack, and the immediate deletion of any accounts uploading violent terrorist or extreme material with a duty to then tell law enforcement.

Source: The Age

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