In a stern move, the Australian government has decided to rein in the social media companies, including Facebook, who the government believes are lax in their attitude in keeping a check on the content shared on the platform. According to a report by TechCrunch, the House of Representatives in Australia has passed a law requiring social media platforms to “expeditiously” remove content that shows kidnapping, murders, rape, or terrorist attacks. This latest move comes only weeks after the horrendous attack on mosques in Christchurch that left 50 innocents dead.
And this is not all, if the companies fail to get rid of the content in a timely and efficient fashion, employees could face prison time in Australia and companies could be subject to fines of up to 10% of their annual profit.
According to a New York Times report, Christan Porter, Australia’s attorney general was quoted as saying, “These platforms should not be weaponized for these purposes. Internet platforms must take the spread of abhorrent violent material online seriously,”
This latest move by the Australian government has put it the center of the debate surrounding freedom of speech, censorship and content moderation raging in nearly every society across the globe.
Australia is not the only country taking such action, India is also mulling over the decision to limit the spread of misinformation on social media platforms which has led to the debate these laws are tantamount to censorship of speech that the ruling party might find offensive. Same is the case with the European Union which believes that the social media powerhouses have failed to comply with the regulations enacted in 2016 and 2017 to take care of hate speech.
Already voices have started to filter out against the regulations in Australia. Speaking to The New York Times, Sunita Bose, the managing director of the Digital Industry Group said, “This law, which was conceived and passed in five days without any meaningful consultation, does nothing to address hate speech, which was the fundamental motivation for the tragic Christchurch terrorist attacks.”