Social Media Must Stop Terror Videos: PM

March 19, 2019 Updated: March 19, 2019

If social media giants can build algorithms to sell ads, Scott Morrison says they can find ways to stop terrorists from spreading horrifically violent videos.

The prime minister wants G20 nations to consider practical ways to force companies like Facebook and Google to stop broadcasting atrocities and violent crimes.

A 28-year-old man from New South Wales has been charged with murder following the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch which killed 50 people and left another 50 injured.

The attack was live-streamed on Facebook, but none of the 200 people who watched it live reported it using the company’s content reporting tools.

“If you can write an algorithm to make sure that the ads they want you to see can appear on your mobile phone, then I’m quite confident they can write an algorithm to screen out hate content on these social media platforms,” Morrison told reporters in Adelaide on March 19.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten agreed.

“I do not believe it is beyond the technological capacity of some of the richest, largest, most powerful, cleverest, most sophisticated businesses in the world, not to be able to better monitor the material before they publish it,” he told reporters in Western Australia.

On March 17, Shorten was scathing of social media giants who he says allow content to be shared that would normally cause legal action.

“If a newspaper wrote some of the stuff that you allow on your media platforms they’d be in court,” he told reporters in Melbourne. “The big media platforms do have an obligation to better monitor and prevent hate speech.”

Facebook vice president Chris Sonderby confirmed the company has to wait for users to report horrific content, but once it has been reported the company can automatically block people from uploading it again.

Sonderby added that the social media giant is working around the clock to prevent the video from being shared again.

“The video was viewed fewer than 200 times during the live broadcast. No users reported the video during the live broadcast,” Sonderby said in a statement on March 19.

“Including the views during the live broadcast, the video was viewed about 4000 times in total before being removed from Facebook.

“The first user report on the original video came in 29 minutes after the video started, and 12 minutes after the live broadcast ended.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said social media companies must take responsibility for what they publish.

“They are the publisher. Not just the postman. There cannot be a case of all profit no responsibility,” she told parliament.

Morrison wrote to G20 2019 president, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, calling for agreement on “clear consequences” for social media companies.

The alleged shooter was not on any security watchlist in Australia or New Zealand, despite online profiles linked to him containing material promoting white supremacist views.

Facebook took down 1.5 million copies of the footage and authorities were last week left scrambling to stop its spread across the internet on Twitter, Google and elsewhere.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have blocked a number of websites for continuing to host the massacre video.

Social media expert Damien Spry, who lectures at the University of South Australia, said Facebook had struggled to cope with the popularity of its live broadcasts.

“Once it is uploaded then it’s almost impossible to take it down before it at least gets spread to a few other users,” he told ABC Radio National.

By Dominica Sanda