Websites sharing terrorist attacks, streamed live online, will now be blocked for five days nationwide with new laws rolled out and inspired by the Christchurch attack. Picture: Aaron Francis
Websites sharing terrorist attacks, streamed live online, will now be blocked for five days nationwide with new laws rolled out and inspired by the Christchurch attack. Picture: Aaron Francis

Christchurch massacre inspires laws to block terrorists online

One year after video from the Christchurch attack went viral on Facebook, Australia's e-safety Commissioner has been granted powers to block access to vile terrorist material online.

The bans, to be enforced by Australian internet providers, could see websites including Facebook, Reddit or 4Chan, blocked for five days at a time in Australia if they continue to make abhorrent, violent videos available for viewing.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has been granted new powers to order the blocking of websites hosting violent, terrorist material.
Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has been granted new powers to order the blocking of websites hosting violent, terrorist material.

The new powers follow a nationwide block placed on eight websites which continue to provide access to horrific video and a chilling manifesto produced by the alleged gunman who killed 51 people in a Christchurch massacre last March.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the power to censor graphic, violent material in an "online crisis event" was important to protect the public and prevent copycat attacks.

"The Christchurch terror attacks taught us that we cannot be complacent in the face of the willingness of terrorists to exploit the internet to traumatise the community and incite further heinous acts," Ms Inman Grant said.

"In a free society such as ours, the threshold for blocking websites must be extremely high.

"However, the community has a right to be protected from material that could go viral, causing enormous harm, particularly to children or those who may be vulnerable to radicalisation."

The new law will allow the Commissioner to block material which could incite or instruct terrorist or violent crime - likely to cause significant harm or trauma to viewers - and warrants a quick response.

The scale of the crime will also be considered when determining censorship.

Blocks could be placed on an entire website domain and for five days at a time, according to the legislation, though they could be revised if the material was removed.

The Masjid Al Noor Mosque ahead of the one year anniversary of the Christchurch massacre. Picture: Aaron Francis
The Masjid Al Noor Mosque ahead of the one year anniversary of the Christchurch massacre. Picture: Aaron Francis

The protocol was created by the eSafety Commission in conjunction with the Communications Alliance which represents internet providers after they struggled to find legal avenues to block horrific video of the Christchurch massacre live-streamed to Facebook and shared widely.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the new protocol would deliver certainty to internet providers seeking to protect the community.

"Now we have a framework in place to enable a rapid, co-ordinated and decisive response to contain the rapid spread of terrorist or extreme violent material," he said.

Internet service providers participating in the scheme include Telstra, Foxtel, Optus, TPG, Vodafone Hutchison Australia and the Vocus Group.

Facebook changed its rules around streaming live video following the massacre, adding 30-day bans for users who broke its "most serious policies".

Originally published as Christchurch massacre inspires laws to block terrorists online



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