Prime Minister Scott Morrison is demanding a graphic video circulating on social media platform TikTok be taken down, saying tech giants would be held “accountable” for failures to remove damaging content.
Parents and children have been warned to be wary of footage showing a man in the US taking his own life.
The video was originally posted to Facebook but is now circulating in countless clips on TikTok.
In many instances, people are posting the suicide clip as a horrifying surprise at the end of videos beginning with innocent clips of animals, to lure viewers into watching it.
On Wednesday, Mr Morrison posted a video to Facebook in which he said the laws and standards of behaviour for the real world must also apply online.
“No child should be exposed to horrifying content like this,” he said, slamming the video as “disgraceful”.
“Platforms like TikTok need to put in more resources to detect and tear down this sort of harmful content. That is their responsibility.”
Mr Morrison said Australia’s eSafety commissioner was engaging closely with TikTok to get the video removed.
A spokeswoman for TikTok said moderators were detecting and removing the video as people tried to upload it.
“We are banning accounts that repeatedly try to upload clips,” she said.
“We appreciate our community members who’ve reported content and warned others against watching, engaging or sharing such videos.”
Mr Morrison evoked the Christchurch terror attack, where an Australian man live-streamed footage of his murder of 51 innocent people at a New Zealand mosque, in calling for social media companies to do better in moderating content on their platforms.
“Those who run these organisations have a responsibility to those who are watching it, particularly when it comes to children,” the PM said.
“It’s a big job for governments to make sure these social media companies do the right thing. Whether it’s making sure that the social media platforms don’t become a weapon in the hands of terrorists, but also through carelessness and a failure to make sure their algorithms and other processes don’t weed out this sort of very damaging material.”
Mr Morrison said the government “will be making sure that we do everything to hold you accountable”. It comes after a Senate committee into foreign interference through social media announced plans to investigate TikTok – including any links to the Chinese government – and several federal MPs called for the app to be banned.
“My message to these social media companies is, yes, your products are changing the world but with that comes a great responsiiblity and you need to be accountable and responsible to make sure your product does not harm Australians,” Mr Morrison said.
The prime minister has previously ruled out banning TikTok but said intelligence agencies would continue to monitor the popular short video app.
TikTok’s Australian arm will appear before the Senate committee later in September.
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