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PM's legal threat to social media giants over terror, extreme content

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Tech titans would be breaking Australian law if they didn’t take down footage of terrorist acts as soon as they learned about them, under proposed changes the prime minister will put to their top brass.

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Scott Morrison will discuss violent offences being broadcast on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube during a meeting in Brisbane today.

The meeting comes less than two weeks after the Christchurch mosques massacre, in which 50 people were killed.

A video of the terror attack, in which a lone gunman opened fire at two mosques during Friday prayers, was live-streamed on social media.

Morrison will tell the executives his government is drafting laws which would make it illegal for the platforms to not remove footage of extreme violence as soon as they become aware of it.

The legislation would also allow the government to declare footage of an incident filmed by a perpetrator being hosted on such sites as “abhorrent violent material”.

That would allow federal authorities to ask social media providers to remove the material, with the platforms receiving greater penalties the longer it is left up.

“If social media companies fail to demonstrate a willingness to immediately institute changes to prevent the use of their platforms, like what was filmed and shared by the perpetrators of the terrible offences in Christchurch, we will take action,” Morrison said in a statement.

Facebook took down 1.5 million posts of the footage of the Christchurch shootings, but says none of the 200 people who watched the live video of the massacre immediately reported it.

“The first user report on the original video came in 29 minutes after the video started, and 12 minutes after the live broadcast ended,” Facebook vice president Chris Sonderby said last week.

The online giants are also being urged to ensure they protect the personal information of Australians who use their platforms.

The federal government plans to force them to cough up more cash if they breach Australian privacy laws.

Under proposed changes to the Privacy Act, online platforms that seriously or repeatedly breach privacy laws would be fined $10 million, up for the current penalty of $2.1 million.

Alternatively, they could be charged three times the value of any benefit obtained by misusing information or 10 per cent of their annual domestic turnover, depending on which figure was greater.

-AAP

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