Joint media release
The Hon Christian Porter MP
Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield
Minister for Communications and the Arts
Australia is leading the world with tough new laws targeting social media platforms which allow the live streaming and broadcast of violent crimes passing the Federal Parliament.
Attorney-General, Christian Porter, said Australia now had a penalty regime against social media companies which failed to remove abhorrent violent material in a reasonable time, providing protection for Australians, particularly children, from seeing violent crimes online.
“The tragedy in Christchurch just over two weeks ago brought this issue to a head,” the Attorney-General said.
“It was clear from our discussions last week with social media companies, particularly Facebook, that there was no recognition of the need for them to act urgently to protect their own users from the horror of the live streaming of the Christchurch massacre and other violent crimes and so the Morrison Government has taken action with this legislation.”
The Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Bill 2019, which passed through the House of Representatives today after passing the Senate last night, provides two new sets of offences:
- Makes it a criminal offence for social media platforms not to remove abhorrent violent material expeditiously. A failure to do so would be punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment or fines of up to 10% of the platform’s annual turnover.
- Requires social media platforms anywhere in the world to notify the AFP if they become aware their service is streaming abhorrent violent conduct that is happening in Australia. A failure to do this will be punishable by fines of up to $168,000 for an individual or $840,000 for a corporation.
In addition, the e-Safety Commissioner will have the power to issue notices that bring this type of material to the attention of social media companies. As soon as they receive a notice, they will be deemed to be aware of the material, meaning the clock starts ticking for the platform to remove the material or face extremely serious criminal penalties.
Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, said the world-leading legislation brings social media companies into line with community expectations and the obligations placed on other organisations in society.
“Mainstream media cannot live broadcast the horror of Christchurch or other violent crimes and neither should social media be able to do so,” the Minister said.
“Where social media platforms fail to take action to stop the live streaming of such violent and abhorrent crimes, they should face serious penalties and that’s what will now occur once this Bill receives Royal Assent.
“These new laws also protect the ability of news media to report on events which are in the public interest within their existing licensing standards.”