Major social media companies will take further steps to stop the publication of violent terror content in response to the Morrison Government’s social media taskforce to keep Australians safe online.
The commitments from the Australian Taskforce to Combat Terrorist and Extreme Violent Material Online the Government set up following the Christchurch terrorist attacks will see tighter monitoring and controls on live streaming and a simulation exercise to further test social media companies’ capabilities.
The action comes following the G20 Summit and world leaders’ strong message to technology companies to take action to prevent the exploitation of the internet for terrorism and violent extremism.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his priority was to keep Australians safe.
“Social media companies need to step up and recognise their responsibilities to ensure their platforms are not being weaponised by violent terrorists and extremists,” the Prime Minister said.
“We’re doing everything we can with new laws and tighter controls at home and with our international partners to stop social media platforms being abused.
“Social media companies are on notice. If they don’t deliver on their commitments, we will move to legislate and do so quickly.
“To keep all Australians safe we must prevent the use of online platforms by extremists, like what was filmed and shared in Christchurch.”
The Taskforce was formed following a Summit on March 26 convened by the Prime Minister, with members from Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter, along with Telstra, Vodafone, TPG and Optus.
The report identifies nine areas of agreement, including prevention; detection and removal; transparency; deterrence; and capacity building.
These areas build on and extend the commitments already made by industry and Government following the attacks, including to;
• Develop and report to Government on technical measures to proactively stop terrorist and extreme violent material from being disseminated on their platforms;
• Identify, fast-track and report to Government on appropriate checks on live-streaming to reduce the risk of users spreading terrorist and extreme violent material online;
• Implement visible and intuitive user reporting mechanisms and introduce accelerated review for live-streamed content flagged as terrorist or extreme violent material;
• Improve transparency of the platforms’ ongoing efforts to combat terrorist and extreme violent material on their platforms through regular public reporting at least twice yearly;
• Ensure that account management practices and policies can be enforced against those who exploit platforms to disseminate terrorist and extreme violent content;
• In consultation with other members, work to strengthen the work of the industry-led Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), including the creation of an online toolbox for smaller online services to access support to effectively prevent, detect and respond to online terrorist and extreme violent and actively make these solutions accessible to smaller online services
• Run a ‘testing event’ in 2019-20 managed by the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee that simulates a scenario to gauge the capability of the industry and government.
This action also advances the principles and actions stipulated in the Christchurch Call to Action, which was developed by the New Zealand Government and has the support of some 18 countries, including Australia, as well as the major digital platforms.
Australian internet service providers (ISPs) have also committed to continue to work with Government on effective content blocking arrangements on terrorist content
Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said the members of the Taskforce worked collaboratively over the last three months to deliver this report to Government.
“We are grateful for the spirit of cooperation and goodwill displayed by industry and commend them for reaching a consensus on actions,” Minister Fletcher said.
“This work is only part of the Government’s broader online safety agenda.
“This Government has placed Australia at the forefront of international efforts to keep our citizens safe online.
“In 2015, we established the world’s first Children’s eSafety Commissioner and legislated a take-down regime for cyber-bullying material targeted at Australian children. In 2017, the Government expanded the eSafety Commissioner’s remit to include all Australians, and introduced a civil penalty regime for image-based abuse.
“Since then, the Government has provided additional funding for programs to support online safety for vulnerable Australians, teachers and carers of children under five, and for non-government operators providing online safety and training projects, bringing our investment in eSafety to over $100 million over the next four years.
“We have committed to introducing a new fit-for-purpose Online Safety Act, and will strengthen the penalties for online harassment and abuse,” Minister Fletcher said.
“We will also work with states and territories to develop a nationally consistent approach to combatting criminal cyber-bullying and online harassment.”