Australia's crackdown on Facebook-streamed terrorism passes Senate

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) – Legislation aimed at stopping violent crime and acts of extremism from being live-streamed on the internet was passed by Australia’s Senate amid warnings from the legal profession and technology companies that the proposed law is flawed.

The Bill, aimed at preventing the “weaponising” of social media platforms by terrorists and criminals, cleared Parliament’s upper house late on Wednesday (April 3) with no debate or amendments and is expected to come before the lower house on Thursday.

The legislation, drafted in the wake of the deadly mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left 50 people dead, carries penalties of up to 10 per cent of a company’s annual turnover and potential prison sentences for executives of social-media companies who fail to expeditiously remove abhorrent violent material from their platforms.

Facebook came under sharp criticism for not taking down a video live-streamed by the alleged Christchurch gunman fast enough.

The Law Council of Australia says it is concerned the “legislation is being thought up on the run without any proper consultation.” The council says it is not clear whether companies would be fined according to their global annual revenue, or on turnover generated in Australia – adding the legislation meant firms would be punished based on their size rather than the seriousness of the breach.

“Such an approach to penalties, if used as a precedent for other areas of government regulation, could have a chilling effect on businesses investing in Australia or providing their services in this country,” Arthur Moses, the council president, said in a statement.

Scott Farquhar, the billionaire co-founder of enterprise software company Atlassian, said the legislation should be properly scrutinised by a parliamentary committee.

“In its blind rush to legislate, the government is creating confusion and threatening jobs,” he said in a post on Twitter.

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