Australian internet providers told to block websites hosting Christchurch terror video

Ruben Fields
September 11, 2019

The Australian government has scolded representatives from the major tech companies at a meeting in Queensland on Tuesday, calling on the tech giants like Facebook and Twitter to convince regulators that they can monitor and crackdown on violent content livestreamed on their platforms.

A total of 43 websites based on a list provided by Vodafone New Zealand were blocked.

"I have consulted with both the ISPs and the website administrators, giving the websites ample opportunity to remove this horrific content, and a number have complied".

In defence of the new censorship powers put into action by Australia's conservative government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last month, "That type of abhorrent material has no place in Australia".

The new order means the e-safety commissioner will be responsible for monitoring the eight blacklisted sites. If they remove the material they can be unblocked.

Now, six months after the attack itself, the Australian eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant has given the appropriate government backing in the form of a direct order to continue blocking eight of these sites - the remainder of the initial sites that refused requests to take down the material.

Ms Grant said she had issued five notices demanding various sites take the material down.

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"The decision to block websites will be taken only under extraordinary circumstances and will need to meet an extremely high threshold", she said.

"The slippery slope argument I keep seeing [is] this is not obscene content or objectionable content [but] it's clearly illegal".

"When the attack happened in Christchurch, ISPs spent the first couple of days talking to the AFP, the eSafety Commissioner, the government department, the regulator, saying, 'What should we do?'" he said.

"Australian internet service providers acted quickly and responsibly in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Christchurch in March this year to block websites that were hosting this harmful material", Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said. "I don't see any public interest in making this kind of material that is created to humiliate and to incite further terrorist acts and hatred".

"We can not allow this heinous material to be used to promote, incite or instruct in further terrorist acts", Grant said in an emailed statement.

Communications Alliance, which represents internet service providers in Australia, welcomed the certainty provided by the direction.

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