Australia is to become the first country in the world to introduce jail terms and multi-million-dollar fines for social media giants that do not quickly remove violent material.
In what is expected to be the final week of parliament before the federal election, the government will seek to put two new sets of offences in the criminal code.
These tough new laws will make it a criminal offence for social media platforms to not remove abhorrent violent material quickly.
The speed of the removal would be determined by a jury.
This would be punishable by three years’ jail for Australian or overseas executives or fines that can reach up to 10 per cent of the platform’s global annual turnover.
Platforms anywhere in the world must notify the Australian Federal Police if they become aware their service is streaming abhorrent violent conduct that is happening in Australia.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said the amendments would be modelled on existing offences which require platforms to notify police if their service is being used to access child pornography.
The laws will also give the e-Safety Commissioner the power to issue notices that bring this type of material to the attention of the social media companies.
As soon as they receive that type of notice, the companies will be deemed to be aware of the material and the clock starts ticking for the hosting platform to remove the material or face penalties.
The laws will still ensure that news media can report appropriately on events which are in the public interest, without showing the violent material itself.
Mr Morrison and Mr Porter were left unimpressed after a meeting with social media companies earlier this week, called in response to the live-streaming of the killing of 50 people in two New Zealand mosques.
“There are many actions we need to take to keep Australians safe in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attacks, and our government has been getting on with that job,” Mr Morrison said.
“Foremost among these is to recognise how social media platforms are being weaponised by terrorists “.
“Big social media companies have a responsibility to take every possible action to ensure their technology products are not exploited by murderous terrorists.”
The laws will capture the playing or streaming of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, torture, rape and kidnapping on social media.
A new taskforce has been set up to bring government and social media companies together to deal with the issue, which will also be put on the agenda for G20 leaders in Osaka, Japan, in June.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the new laws will not impact on the reporting of media organisations.
“Australia’s mainstream media already adopt a sensible approach to broadcasting material which can cause harm to individuals, as is required under their licensing arrangements,” he said.
Several Australian media outlets broadcast or embedded some of the Christchurch mosque shooters footage on the day of the massacre.