Mosque Attack Streaming Spurs Planned Law Change in Australia

(Bloomberg) -- Australia is planning to introduce new criminal penalties for social media companies that undermine public safety, after platforms such as Facebook carried footage of the deadly terrorist attack in New Zealand that were live-streamed by the gunman.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is meeting with representatives from social media companies Tuesday, said his government was working on new laws in the wake of the attacks on two Christchurch mosques that left 50 people dead.

The legislation will “seek to apply criminal penalties to companies that don’t act in the interests of the safety of Australians,” Morrison told reporters. “What I’m looking for is for these companies to come to the table as responsible corporate citizens and make sure their products are safe here in Australia.”

Facebook Inc. and other social media companies have come under mounting pressure to ensure their platforms are not used to spread extremist propaganda. The lone shooter accused of the New Zealand atrocity live-streamed the murders, with the video continuing to be widely available on a range of platforms hours after the attack. The suspect, an Australian, also uploaded his extremist manifesto online shortly before launching the assault.

“We want the same rules to apply in the online social media world that exist in the physical world,” said Morrison. “What we will be seeking from the companies is an understanding from them about how they are going to make their products safe.”

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