Australia Vows To Block Websites Hosting 'Abhorrent' Extremist Content

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Sunday that he will block websites circulating extremist content in response to a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques that left 51 people dead.

The suspected gunman in the March 15 attacks in Christchurch is a 28-year-old Australian. He allegedly had expressed admiration for violent white nationalists and posted a white supremacist manifesto online shortly before the massacre.

“The shocking events that took place in Christchurch demonstrated how digital platforms and websites can be exploited to host extreme violent and terrorist content,” Morrison said at the annual Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France. “That type of abhorrent material has no place in Australia and we are doing everything we can to deny terrorists the opportunity to glorify their crimes, including taking action locally and globally.”

Morrison acted on a recommendation from his Taskforce to Combat Terrorist and Extreme Violent Material Online, which issued a report in June on how to stem the spread of harmful content online, given that “the internet was exploited to amplify the crimes” of the shooter.

During his rampage, the gunman live-streamed the massacre on Facebook, prompting the video to be copied and shared rapidly, sending social media platforms into overdrive as they scrambled to detect and delete the footage

According to the Morrison’s office, eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grantis will make “independent determinations on a case by case basis” as to what content will be blocked in order “to keep Australians safe online while upholding important internet freedoms.”

In April, the country passed legislation to punish social media companies with hefty fines or prison time for their executives if they fail to remove “abhorrent violent material” from their platforms. However, it remains unclear how the law, which has been criticized as vague, would be enforced.