Australia Passes Law That Will Penalise “Abhorrent” Content On Social Media

The federal government has been forced to defend controversial social media laws that passed through parliament on Thursday afternoon.

The new laws mean internet companies that fail to quickly remove “abhorrent” video and images could face heavy fines. Attorney General Christian Porter said the legislation could represent a world first.

“It was clear from our discussions last week with social media companies, particularly Facebook, that there was no recognition of the need for them to act urgently to protect their own users from the horror of the live streaming of the Christchurch massacre and other violent crimes,” he said in a statement.

Social media companies like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, could be fined up to 10% of annual turnover and executives could face jail time under the new legislation. Australia’s e-Safety Commissioner will also have the power to issue notices that would bring the existence of violent content to the attention of social media companies.

The Labor party combined with the Coalition to pass the law, despite Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus saying that the legislation was “poorly drafted” earlier this week.

Labor defended its decision to join with the Coalition in backing the reform by promising to review the legislation if it was elected in May – a similar tactic used when it agreed to pass the controversial encryption bill.

The government has been accused of rushing the legislation in the wake of the March 15 Christchurch terror attacks by major figures in the country’s tech scene, including co-founder of Atlassian Scott Farquhar.

Farquhar told ABC News on Thursday that the laws had good intentions but had not been properly thought through.

“You’ve got to get the detail right so that the law actually achieves its goal,” he said.

“This legislation affects every single person that puts user generated content on the internet.”

“The way that the ‘content providers’ and ‘social media sites’ is defined is really anyone that puts content on the internet, so that affects news sites, social media sites, job sites, dating sites, really anyone who is working with a social media site today is affected.”