Australia Blocks Access to Eight Websites Showing Video of New Zealand Mosque Attacks

September 9, 2019 Updated: September 9, 2019

SYDNEY—The Australian government has ordered internet service providers to block access to eight websites still showing footage of deadly attacks on two mosques in New Zealand earlier this year.

A lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons attacked Muslims attending Friday prayers in Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island on March 15, killing 51 people in the country’s worst mass shooting. The attacker broadcast the shooting live on Facebook, and footage was widely shared.

Most websites quickly removed links to the video, but Australia’s eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant said on Sunday eight local sites had defied her requests for the content to be deleted.

“We cannot allow this heinous material to be used to promote, incite or instruct in further terrorist acts,” Grant said in an emailed statement.

“The initial list was 45 websites. It’s down to eight,” Grant told SMH. “To me this is an arm’s race. No matter your platform, [or] how advanced it is, there will be people out there who try to misuse them.

“We have really reached a tipping point with the tech industry … self-regulation is not working,” she said, adding that the bans were adopting a “very, very high threshold” for what was considered “illegal, excessively violent” content.

SMH reported shortly after the Christchurch shooting that numerous websites had been blocked for hosting the footage of the attack. The sites included 4chan, gun website ar15.com, bestgore.com, zerohedge.com, liveleak.com, darkweb.tokyo, anonfile.com, and lulz.com. They were unblocked upon agreeing to removing the video.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a statement, “Website blocking is not a universal solution to online harms, but it is important that this option be available to the eSafety Commissioner in extreme cases such as this.”

The blocking of the eight websites comes amid a concentrated effort by Australia to clamp-down on the sharing of violent content online.

The block will be in place for six months as the websites are reviewed to determine whether the offending content has been removed and the restriction can be lifted.

Australia in April passed legislation that allowed Canberra to fine social media companies up to 10 percent of their annual global turnover and imprison executives for up to three years if violent content is not removed “expeditiously.”

It is now an offense in Australia for companies such as Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which owns video sharing site YouTube, not to remove any videos or photographs that show murder, torture, or rape without delay.

Companies must also inform Australian police within a “reasonable” timeframe.

The Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.

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