Australia decides not to block Facebook for hosting violent content but will block “fringe websites”

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The Australian federal government ruled out blocking access to big social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

The Morrison government is setting up a team to create a framework for blocking the diffusion of violent images after accepting a recommendation to empower ISPs and telecommunication companies to track down and block specific websites hosting violent content.

According to federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, mainstream social media platforms are not the target of the measures to contain the diffusion of graphic images. He explained through a spokesperson that the new arrangements would give telecommunication companies the legal background to tackle “fringe websites” that willingly host “abhorrent material” and refuse to cooperate with the authorities, a spokesperson for Mr Morrison said to the Sydney Morning Herald.

He added that these containment measures would have very high thresholds before having to be used. However, he did not specify which are the websites more likely to be targeted:

“I don’t want to be naming individual websites, not least because I don’t want to be giving them any publicity.”

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eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the new powers will be applied “on a case-by-case basis”.

Director of the UNSW Canberra Cyber center Nigel Pheir warned that taking down websites should only be considered a “last resort”. In his view, social media platforms are responsible for doing more to combat violent content:

“They’ve got the algorithms to target us with advertisements, [so] they’ve got to have the algorithms to stop us seeing this content. I’d like to see them invest more in blocking accounts of people who share it.”

“If Facebook [doesn’t] start doing more to combat this stuff, there will be a tipping point and people will stop using social media because it will stop being a good user experience.”

This week PM Scott Morrison is attending the G7 in Biarritz, France. He will be most definitely pushing other leaders to follow his country example and adopt tight measures against extremisms and violence on social media.

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Filippo Cestaro
Filippo Cestaro is a tech news writer with a strong focus on AI, machine learning, and big data. His interests include AI singularity and transhumanism. He is also a contributor to Scuba Zone Magazine and joined with the University of Milan to publish work on the psychology of scuba diving. [email protected]