Attorney-General Christian Porter and Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Apr. 4, 2019.
Attorney-General Christian Porter and Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Apr. 4, 2019.

Australia's parliament has approved a new law that will hold social media companies criminally liable if they fail to quickly remove violent content from their websites.

According to the law, which passed overwhelmingly Thursday, social media companies would be fined 10 percent of their global annual turnover if material deemed "abhorrent violent material" is not taken down quickly, and its executives could face as much as three years in prison. Abhorrent violent material is defined as acts of murder, terrorism, torture or rape.

A police officer stands guard in front of the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 17, 2019, where one of the two mass shootings occurred. New Zealand's stricken residents reached out to Muslims in their neighborhoods and around the cou
Australia Could Jail, Fine Social Media Execs for Streaming Violence
Australia’s Parliament passed legislation Thursday that could imprison social media executives if their platforms stream real violence such as the New Zealand mosque shootings.Critics warn that some of the most restrictive laws about online communication in the democratic world could have unforeseen consequences, including media censorship and reduced investment in Australia.The conservative government introduced the bills in response to the March 15 attacks in Christchurch in which an Australian…

The legislation was drafted in response to the March 15 shooting deaths of 50 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which the suspected gunman, Australian white supremacist Brenton Harris Tarrant, livestreamed over Facebook. The footage was widely shared over the popular U.S.-based platform before it was taken down. Facebook said it removed as many as 1.5 million videos of the attacks in the first 24 hours afterward.

The new law was drafted and passed in the final days of the parliamentary session, prompting criticism by some lawmakers and digital advocates that it was rushed without proper hearings. Sunita Bose, the director of the Digital Industry Group, which represents Facebook, Google and Twitter, issued a statement saying the issue "is a highly complex problem that requires discussion" with technology and legal experts.

Arthur Moses, the head of the Australian Law Council, the nation's top lawyers' group, said the law could lead to some "unintended consequences," including media censorship and muzzling people from calling attention to various wrongdoing.