Aussie Senate Rushes Thru Bill That Would Fine Social Media Companies For Not Taking Down 'Abhorrent' Content Fast Enough

from the WE-HAVE-DONE-SOMETHING-the-AG-exclaimed dept

Following the Christchurch mosque shooting, the New Zealand government swiftly declared footage and photos of the shooting illegal and started rounding up citizens who violated the censorship body's new declaration. The government of its closest neighbor has responded to the tragedy in a similar fashion, outlawing the sharing of "abhorrent violent material."

Tragedies make for bad laws. And Australia -- while relatively short on tragedy -- has been crafting some supremely bad laws lately. The national security flag was waved around a bit to justify encryption-breaking mandates. Now, the government has rushed through a bill targeting content like the Christchurch shooter's livestream of his violent act.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Bill 2019 has been loosely characterised as a crackdown on social media companies to prevent a recurrence of what transpired during the Christchurch massacre, where live video was streamed by the perpetrator and then shared by users.

But the text of the amendment [pdf] shows it takes a far wider brush than just to social media companies, instead hitting a wider range of online content storage and carriage service providers, with very few exceptions.

Abhorrent material is defined as relating to terrorism, murder, attempted murder, torture, rape or kidnapping.

This bill [PDF] was rushed through a Senate session with 18 other bills -- all of this accomplished in under 45 minutes. Such was the sense of urgency that Senate members voted sight unseen. Only one Senator even bothered asking for the text of the bill being voted on. It didn't matter. There was no text to be had at the time of the vote.

The bill demands the removal of "objectionable" content within a "reasonable amount of time." "Reasonable" isn't defined. The bill simply demands "expeditious removal" after notification and an initial fine of $168,000 for not being expeditious enough.

There's no legal definition of "expeditious" to rely on, so social media providers will apparently have to make do with the Attorney General's feelings.

[A]ttorney-General Christian Porter gave some indication during a televised briefing of how quickly individuals and companies might have to act.

“Using the Christchurch [massacre] example, I can't precisely say what would have been the point of time at which it would have been reasonable for [Facebook] to understand that this was live streaming on their site or playable on their site, and they should have removed it,” Porter said.

“But what I can say - and I think every Australian would agree - [is] it was totally unreasonable that it should exist on this site for well over an hour without them taking any action whatsoever.

So, tech companies have an hour to remove anything the Australian government claims is abhorrent, whether or not the content was uploaded by an Australian. If this vague deadline isn't met, the fines begin escalating. $168,000 is merely the starting point.

Individuals can be hit with a three-year jail term, up to $2.1 million in fines, or both. Companies meanwhile can face fines up to $10.5 million or 10 percent of their annual turnover.

The Attorney General is inordinately proud of his plan to fine and lock up tech company execs because of content their users posted. He calls it a "world first" and says it's supported by a "near unanimous view amongst Australians." This does not mean Australians were consulted while the bill was being drafted. There was also no input from tech companies which will have to respond "expeditiously" to a vague, overbroad directive.

The AG stands united with a bunch of people he didn't speak to while talking up a bill no Senators read before passing. What could possibly go wrong?

Filed Under: australia, christchurch, social media


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 5 Apr 2019 @ 3:43am

    Something something bills quickly rushed after a tragedy often are horrible ideas wrapped up in headline seeking about having done something.

    But then these are the same minds that were sure their law could change the basics of math to suit them & went after reporters for reporting on news seemingly because they feared their citizens would be unable to give someone a fair trial if they heard the outcome of a different case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 3:58am

    Does this mean action movies (among others) will be effectively illegal? (I mean, we might as well apply the law to streaming services as well as say facebook).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 4:06am

      Re:

      Also will they outlaw mentioning the *nix command "killall" (and maybe "kill" as well)?

      Does that mean facebook can no longer link to some Linux/bsd/etc man pages?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 4:13am

    What's next? A law that would fine politicians for hastily rushing thru abhorrent bills?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 5 Apr 2019 @ 4:18am

    "Such was the sense of urgency that Senate members voted sight unseen"

    Sigh... I can understand emotional overreacting, but even the dumbest political should be made to read the things they try to make the rest of us obey before they sign it into law. Any law that's passed should be null and void the moment the people with the job of reading it admit that they failed to do their job.

    If I ran to sign contracts at work without reading the T&Cs because I had an emotional reaction to something, I'd at least be disciplined if that came out, if not fired. Even if the end result turned out to be what I assumed it would be, but especially if there were things in there that would needless cripple the work of colleagues. Why not these people?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 Apr 2019 @ 5:57am

      Re:

      "If I ran to sign contracts at work without reading the T&Cs because I had an emotional reaction to something, I'd at least be disciplined if that came out, if not fired."

      "Why not these people?"

      Because in the private sector we're more or less used to the idea of personal accountability. You mess up, there will be consequences, and you're usually the guy who gets to handle the fallout of your own actions.

      In politics when someone messes up what happens is that your successor gets to blame whoever sat on his chair before him and earn a few more votes for his party.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 6:50am

      Re:

      As if reading a bill before signing it is not part of their job.
      Looks like they no longer wish to remain in that position.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 7:05am

        Re: Re:

        You assume that they'd even understand what are they reading about.

        Tip: no, they don't.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 8:29am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Most real jobs require that the employee perform tasks associated with their job description and when they do not meet the standards set forth by HR dept they are usually let go. Politicians do not seem to understand this requirement and think they are immune. Hopefully the voters let them in on a well known fact, assuming that voting even works anymore.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 5 Apr 2019 @ 2:02pm

      Re:

      Someone just needs to take advantage of their panicked sheep mentality and regularly slip in clauses that slashes their pay and benefits to 'minimum wage' and 'non-existent' respectively(or hell, have a system that does it automatically and randomly for every bill).

      If they knew that not reading every bill had the chance to suddenly knock them off their well paid thrones I imagine they'd be much more interested in reading them before voting.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daydream, 5 Apr 2019 @ 4:22am

    'A near-unanimous view amongst Australians'?
    Somehow I'm reminded of that thing with bots copying real peoples' names to spam the FCC with fake anti-net-neutrality comments.

    Why do we allow politicians to get away with blatant dishonesty, again?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 4:39am

    Western governments rightly objected to full Sharia law, and went to war to stop the Taliban, so why are they so hell bent on implementing similar types of law on their own people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    indians are horrible, 5 Apr 2019 @ 4:48am

    horrible black indians

    i hate horrible black indians now and forever except the cute indian part whitish girl indians if they are totally submissive and short and let their pants down immediately when told to the bitches

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 5:28am

    The elitist computer world control fanatics that advocate a one world government based on hate and slavery just do not seem to understand that there is a significant portion of the world population that believes that these elitists should suffer the same fate as the Ruthenians and the Manchurians and the faster the better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 6:55am

      Re:

      "The elitist computer world control fanatics that advocate a one world government based on hate and slavery ... "

      computer world?
      If you have a beef with certain corporations and their questionable behaviors it is best to address them rather than foist it upon a stereotypical all encompassing group of people that you know nothing about.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    FuckAustralia, 5 Apr 2019 @ 5:45am

    On the plus side

    Their laws do not apply outside of their borders. The rest of the world can flip them the bird and tell them to fuck off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 5 Apr 2019 @ 6:11am

    If only the people could declare some laws objectionable and have them removed expeditiously... and maybe the lawmakers, too, who pass bills sight unseen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    ADOLF HITLER THE SECOND, 5 Apr 2019 @ 6:24am

    All that because of muslim scum

    All that because of muslim scum and the jews who were behind the mosque attack in new zealotland.

    The mossad did it fucking idiots!

    At least if they had killedall the muslim scum in the country that would have been helpful.

    the global dictatorship is taking place

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 5 Apr 2019 @ 6:45am

    Human Rights Lawsuit in 3...2...1...

    The minute some LEO arrests a journalist or someone like that after jerking a knee in response to this law, there will be a lawsuit, after which this stupid law will bite the dust.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Igualmente69 (profile), 5 Apr 2019 @ 7:40am

    It seems like nearly every day one of the Commonwealth governments does something that makes you thankful for the American Revolution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 7:48am

    I find the topic of this article abhorrent.

    Take it down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 Apr 2019 @ 8:01am

    Politicians should be forced to take exams on the contents of bills before being able to vote on them. If they fail they shouldn't be allowed to vote. If too many fail the bill should be dropped entirely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TestWriter, 5 Apr 2019 @ 8:11am

      Can I have the job as the writer of the tests?

      Then if I don't like a bill, I can write the test in such a way as nobody could pass it.

      One question would suffice: Name the company that has paid you the most to vote on laws they want, and against laws they don't.

      :)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 8:39am

      Re:

      I prefer telling them that they have to write it themselves in the first place.

      No one gets to vote on these political action committees (or their members) that write laws for politicians to sign and some of them do not even read it.

      Representative government does not represent the constituents when those in office refuse to represent the needs of their constituents. This should be obvious but some will argue for a cult of personality, demand compliance from everyone and then claim their country is the best free and open democracy ever.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 8:33am

    Save the Dingos!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 5 Apr 2019 @ 8:39am

    An hour?

    Didn't I read somewhere that there were like 1.5 million of these streams? Is it at all possible for anyone to find 1.5 million copies of something that might or might not have the same name, in an hour? I don't know what the technical machinations of 'taking something down' are, but even if it is a few keystrokes after navigating to the particular place, doing that 1.5 million times is going to take some time.

    Is the deficit in Australia so big that it needs these kind of laws to support whatever their current tax scheme is?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 9:14am

    Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 9:18am

    What the actual fuck is this?

    It explicitly states defendants are guilty until proven innocent in criminal proceedings at the whim of a single bureaucrat, and that said bureaucrat is not required to institute any form of procedural fairness in making that decision.

    And they literally put a section in there which states that this law totally doesn't violate the Constitution. What is even going on in Australia that that's something people would even think of doing, much less actually be able to?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 9:26am

    I find it most suspicious that, after nearly two decades of governments and mainstream media shamelessly spreading terrorist hysteria, it now suddenly becomes something to be brushed under the rug when the evidence is in the hands of the public themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 10:57am

    Orwell was right, if a little time-challenged.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 5 Apr 2019 @ 2:10pm

    Say good-bye to your tech industry Australia

    As I understand it the video was up for so long on FB at least because apparently no-one reported it. The only way FB could have known to take it down sooner was if they someone caught it themselves, and given the amount of content they have to go through that would be asking them to spot a needle in a lake of haystacks, while blindfolded.

    With hefty fines and even jail time on the hook for not catching something inside an hour(and keeping it from being reposted) a platform would have to be insane to operate in australia now, as it would be trivial for someone(or a group) to post something objectionable and get the company in serious trouble, all because they can't manage to meet the impossible standards the idiot politicians and AG have set.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 2:26pm

    So much for nature shows now
    Can't see a spider devour a fly anymore
    or heaven forbid a shark eat a fish .
    Oh the horrors NZ will be saved from .
    What happens to the child who uploads himself/herself/it/unicorn/
    stepping on a ant and smooching it for all world to see
    Well off with its head of course to save the rest .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 3:01pm

    Social media companies in the United States are only subject to U.S. laws, and Australian laws do not apply as long they do have have servers or offfices in the United States

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2019 @ 3:49am

      Re:

      Unless they have servers in Australia, which they almost certainly will. The US have shown that they believe that is enough to go after someone who has no other connection with a country, just ask Kim Dotcom about how that works.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2019 @ 3:26pm

    I think the new bill is more linked to the fact that the LNP gubmint here needs huge amounts of cash and what better way than to try and milk Google, Farcebook, and other big social media networks of a few billion dollars.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 5 Apr 2019 @ 6:07pm

      Shooting the golden goose

      If they're feeling strapped for cash now just wait until tech companies stop providing service in the country at all to avoid the incredibly stupid penalties they just put in place for not doing the impossible.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    cattress (profile), 7 Apr 2019 @ 4:06am

    Misplaced blame

    Seems to me that there is all this anger and blame being lobbed at platforms- who all seemed to take removing of such abhorrent footage seriously, preferring to err on the side of caution- and no real effort to examine what the hell is wrong with people that they wish to proliferate the footage? I'm not advocating for some aggressive action or thought police. Instead, an effort to engage with groups that viewed or spread the videos, in a peaceful manner, with out attempting to censor them for saying hateful things- let these people be who they are, as vile as it is to the rest of us. Some of these people may be able to be reached and eventually persuaded to more empathetic and sympathetic attitudes towards fellow humans if they are shown kindness, respect, and a willingness to accept them into mainstream communities regardless of their flaws. I'm not stupid, I know a good number of these people have hardened hate into their bones, but not everyone. People who feel outcast from society, angry at the world, find community within hate groups and other outcasts. We keep trying to eradicate these people from every platform, and screeching at platforms for not playing whack-a-mole well enough, instead of giving people the tools to protect themselves from their harassment and relegating them to their own little safe places where we can keep an eye on them much better than if they only exist in the corners of the dark web.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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