Government Admits It Only Consulted Social Media Companies After New Laws Were Introduced To Parliament

Government Admits It Only Consulted Social Media Companies After New Laws Were Introduced To Parliament

The federal government has admitted it only consulted social media companies about new laws that would see them penalised for failing to quickly remove “violent” content after the legislation was introduced to parliament.

The legislation, which was criticised for being rushed, passed through both houses this week.

The proposed new law comes off the back of Facebook’s failure to remove the Christchurch massacre live-stream from its platform, with the live footage being broadcasted for 17 minutes.

The new legislation would see social media companies fined up to 10 per cent of the platform’s yearly turnover if they fail to remove “abhorrent” content quickly.

“Abhorrent violent material” refers to content that shows terrorist attacks, kidnapping, murder or rape.

However, tech companies and legal communities have criticised the government for not consulting with key stakeholders before introducing the legislation to parliament.

Communications minister Mitch Fifield said in Senates Estimates last night that social media companies only met with the government after the laws had been introduced to parliament.

Fifield said: “The prime consultation occurred subsequent to the introduction of the legislation.

“But as you might appreciate […] this was really a joint task between the attorney-general’s portfolio and the communications portfolio.

Appearing before the Senates Estimates, the ABC said it would have appreciated being consulted about the laws.

ABC editorial director Alan Sunderland also said the broadcaster “understands” and “appreciates” the intention of the legislation, yet has concerns about the impact around “whistleblowers and around organisations carrying out legitimate business”.

Fifield told the committee the laws do not apply to traditional media companies.

He said: “The legislation is very narrowly crafted to apply to the publication of material which has been produced by, filmed by, the perpetrators themselves.

“It does not apply to content which is filmed by media organisations, it does not apply to content filmed by third parties.

“The issue of whistleblowers is not relevant, because you are not a whistleblower if you are participating in and facilitating in and an accomplice to the live streaming of rape, murder, torture and kidnapping.”

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