February 21, 2020

Host Violent Content? In Australia, You Could Go to Jail

Immediately after the Christchurch shootings, internet service providers in Australia and New Zealand voluntarily blocked more than 40 websites — including hate hothouses like 4chan — that had hosted video of the attacks or a manifesto attributed to the gunman.

In New Zealand, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is leading an international effort to combat internet hate, the sites gradually returned. But in Australia, the sites have stayed down.

Mr. Morrison, at the G7, said the eSafety Commission was now empowered to tell internet service providers when to block entire sites at the domain level.

In its first act with such powers, the commission announced Monday that around 35 sites had been cleared for revival, while eight unidentified repeat offenders would continue to be inaccessible in Australia.

In a country without a First Amendment and with a deep culture of secrecy in government, there is no public list of sites that were blocked, no explanations, and no publicly available descriptions of what is being removed under the abhorrent-content law.

More transparency has been promised by officials in a recent report, and some social media companies have pledged to be more forthcoming. But Susan Benesch, a Harvard professor who studies violent rhetoric, said any effort that limits speech must require clear and regular disclosure “to provoke public debate about where the line should be.”

To get a sense of how specific complaints are handled, in early August a reporter for The New York Times submitted three links for investigation:

  • A Facebook post showing a gun used in the Christchurch attacks.

  • Footage of the Christchurch attacks found on a site based in Colombia.

  • A message board post referring to the alleged Christchurch attacker as a saint.

Investigators said the last item “did not meet the threshold” and was not investigated. For the Christchurch footage, a notice was sent to the site and the hosting service. The first complaint was referred to Facebook, which removed the post.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/11/world/australia/internet-extremist-violence-christchurch.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

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