eSafety Commissioner Orders Twitter and Meta to Remove Violent Videos Following Sydney Church Stabbing

eSafety Commissioner Orders Twitter and Meta to Remove Violent Videos Following Sydney Church Stabbing

The eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, has taken decisive action against social media giants Twitter and Meta, issuing notices to promptly remove graphic and distressing content depicting the recent Sydney church stabbing. This move comes in response to the circulation of violent videos and imagery capturing the stabbing of a prominent Orthodox Christian leader during a service at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley. Inman Grant emphasized the urgency of removing such material, highlighting its potential to cause harm and distress to viewers.

According to Inman Grant, the notices compel Twitter and Meta to remove material showcasing "gratuitous or offensive violence with a high degree of impact or detail" within a strict 24-hour timeframe. Failure to comply with these directives could result in fines for the companies involved. Inman Grant expressed dissatisfaction with the current efforts of mainstream social media platforms to protect Australians from extreme and disturbing content circulating online, prompting her to exercise her powers under the Online Safety Act.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese echoed concerns about the harmful effects of violent videos circulating on social media platforms, particularly on younger audiences who have easy access to such content. He reiterated the government's commitment to working with the eSafety commissioner to demand the removal of harmful material from online platforms. Albanese highlighted the potential for inflammatory posts on social media to incite violence, as witnessed by members of the Assyrian community reacting to posts circulating on social media platforms following the church stabbing incident.

The Sydney church stabbing incident comes in the wake of a recent tragedy at Bondi Junction, where a Queensland man killed multiple individuals at a shopping center. Prompted by the possibility of the attack being live-streamed and shared online, platforms like TikTok and Meta activated their trust and safety teams to proactively remove content that breached community guidelines. Meta also took additional measures, such as temporarily deactivating the accounts of victims at the request of their families and blurring disturbing images in users' feeds.

Despite these efforts, challenges persist in combating misinformation and false narratives surrounding such tragic events. Social media accounts have been observed shaping their own narratives about the causes of the Bondi Junction tragedy, fueling speculation and misinformation. Even after the police identified the perpetrator, misinformation continued to circulate on social media platforms, with some posts incorrectly naming individuals involved in the incident. The federal government aims to address these challenges through upcoming legislation aimed at holding social media companies accountable for the spread of false or harmful content.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland emphasized the importance of refining legislation to ensure it effectively addresses the spread of harmful misinformation online while safeguarding freedom of speech. Rowland highlighted the government's commitment to holding digital platforms accountable for their public commitments to address harmful content, particularly misinformation and disinformation. The proposed legislation aims to require social media companies to toughen their policies on content that is false, misleading, or likely to cause serious harm.

In response to concerns raised during initial consultations, the government is considering amendments to the proposed legislation, including definitions, transparency measures, and improvements to its workability. The goal is to strike a balance between combating harmful content online and protecting important aspects of free speech, including religious speech. The government's efforts reflect a broader commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of Australians in the digital sphere.

In conclusion, the recent incidents in Sydney have underscored the urgent need for action to address the spread of harmful content and misinformation on social media platforms. The actions taken by the eSafety commissioner and the government signal a determination to hold digital platforms accountable for their role in disseminating harmful content. By working together with industry stakeholders and refining legislative measures, authorities aim to create a safer online environment for all Australians.

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