Tech giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google will be forced to swiftly remove abusive online posts or face stiff fines under a tough new law passed by the Australian government on Wednesday.
The bold new legislation, called the Online Safety Bill, gives the country’s regulators the power to crack down on violent threats, revenge porn and other abusive posts on the internet. Users who create such posts face up to five years in prison. Tech platforms that do not remove them within 24 hours will be fined up to $415,000.
Australia’s government developed the 192-page bill in response to the 2019 mass shooting at a mosque in New Zealand, in which a white supremacist gunman killed 51 worshippers while live-streaming the murders on Facebook.
The Australian center-right government’s communications minister Paul Fletcher said the new law enables the country to “crack down on cyber-bullying of children, toxic online abuse, harmful content and the non-consensual sharing of intimate images.” Enforcement of the new law will begin in six months, he said.
A Twitter spokesperson told The Post that the company plans to comply with the law.
“Twitter shares the Australian government’s strong commitment to online safety, and we make ongoing investments in this area to keep our users safe,” the spokesperson said. “Currently, our teams are reviewing the final version of the legislation and will be working closely with the government and eSafety Commissioner in the coming months as this law is implemented in Australia.”
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a February statement, Facebook’s Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands public policy director Mia Garlick said the company broadly supported additional privacy regulation but said the bill’s breadth could lead to regulatory overreach and stifle political speech.
Opponents including Australia’s Green Party have slammed the bill, arguing that it was pushed too quickly without debate. Online civil liberties group Electronic Frontiers Australia said that the bill gave far too much authority to the nation’s eSafety Commissioner.
“It is disturbing that the government plans to hand a large amount of largely unchecked power to a single person,” Electronic Frontiers Australia board member Justin Warren told Australian news site InnovationAus.
“The hasty drafting of the legislation has removed a variety of oversight mechanisms and safeguards that already exist, while extending Australia’s outdated censorship regime to cover private, person-to-person messages,” Warren added.