Thursday, 28 March 2019

Mornings on 6PR with Gareth Parker



Subjects: Social media; Pauline Hanson

GARETH PARKER: The Attorney General is Christian Porter. He joins me each Thursday. Christian, good morning.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Morning, Gareth.

GARETH PARKER: The PM's in town so everyone's very busy, but I want to just take you back a couple of days to the meeting that you had with the internet chiefs, including Facebook. I got the distinct impression you were very unimpressed by what you heard.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, particularly with Facebook I've got to say. I mean, this is a multi-billion-dollar profitable international organisation that allowed mass murder to live stream on its platform for in excess of an hour and I've got to say that their demonstrated level of understanding of the seriousness of that was pretty lacking.

GARETH PARKER: So, who did you actually meet with? Because we find this problem all the time. If ever something happens on Facebook, we ever want to talk to the company, it's impossible. There's no phone number and we can't ring them up.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: ….junior people. Look, they sent junior people, Gareth. So telcos were there, you know, we're talking large companies, Vodafone, Optus and they were represented at the highest vice-presidential levels of their company I mean clearly they took the issue and the meeting very seriously. But same simply couldn't be said of Facebook. I mean, they were - with due respect to them, they did their best, but they were very junior people in the scheme of their organisation and when you ask questions about who might make a decision, for instance, the question was put has Facebook considered suspending its live-streaming functions until they are better assured in their own processes that they can prevent this from happening or remove the material far quicker than what they did previously. And essentially the answer to that was well, that's a decision made by our product management team. Where are they? Well, they're in South Africa. Who runs that? Well, we'd have to get back to you on that. So that was really the style of engagement that occurred, and it was pretty unimpressive.

GARETH PARKER: Do you - I mean, how do you feel about that?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well I just think that that means that the Government has to consider legislative options to try and create a legal framework that provides significant incentives for them to do much, much better and serious penalties if something like this happened again. I mean, one of the questions that was asked was whether or not a human, a person inside their group of moderators – so people who look at the complaints – had actually considered the complaint that was lodged formally through their online complaint system at the 29 minute mark and they didn't know. They did not know the answer to that question in this meeting. Now, I find that just utterly extraordinary, that you would turn up to a meeting on an issue of this type of seriousness and not have an answer to the question whether or not the complaint that was put in at the 29 minute mark was actually ever dealt with by a person. Was the complaint read? Did a person employed inside Facebook to deal with complaints actually look at the video?

It seems that really nothing is done in any substantive sense until New Zealand Police make the request to Facebook to remove the material, which happens at around about the hour mark. And the idea that you'd be live-streaming terrorism and mass murder for 17 minutes and then having it available to be replayed up to 60 minutes, and nothing's done until the police formally ring you to do something about it just seems to me utterly extraordinary.

And of course, New Zealand will have a Royal Commission on this and a whole range of other issues but I think that Facebook's presentation at that Royal Commission's going to be a very interesting couple of days to watch because they've got some real questions to answer and they're totally unanswered at the moment.

GARETH PARKER: So your very clear intent is to bring some laws in to make them pay attention basically, because it's clear they're not paying attention. They don't see this as a priority. They think it's just- well, it's – clearly - the level of seriousness that they're taking it is indicative of the people they sent to your meeting. But what are you going to do - what can you do in a legislative sense?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, you can certainly change the law. I mean, there were already requirements for content service providers, like hosts of images and footage and online chats and so forth to notify the AFP when it is - there're reasonable grounds to believe that people can access, say for instance, child pornography on their website. Now that's already an existing requirement on content servers and hosting platforms now.

So I don't think it's a huge step from that to have requirements on them to notify the Government about material of this type, to remove it, and to have processes in place that allow them to know that they are actually hosting it inside a reasonable period of time, and an hour is totally unreasonable. Completely unreasonable. And that might require greater expenditure on complaints handling, on moderators, on technology, but if that's what needs to be done, that's what these organisations have to do because they've got a social responsibility to not let their platforms effectively become the tool of mass murderers and terrorists.

And that's what's happening here. I mean, what was completely unique about Christchurch is that the terrorist themselves filmed this with the obvious, orchestrated, organised intention that they spread their fanatical and crazed message and terror and violence through the platform of Facebook, and they were very successful at doing that because Facebook's systems completely failed.

GARETH PARKER: Have you considered deleting your Facebook account?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well I mean, as a Facebook user, it is a really useful tool, particularly in public life and particularly in an electoral sense to provide news and information and of course most of the use of Facebook is completely benign, commercially very useful, but it's also a very, very profitable business. And if you're running a profitable business in Australia, you have to abide by Australian standards and laws, and you have to understand what Australian community standards are. And I just think that this international company doesn't have a close enough connection with the Australian community to understand how serious, I think, Australians are at the notion that a 10-year-old child and their family could log on to Facebook and watch the most horrific scenes of mass murder. I mean, it's just completely unacceptable.

GARETH PARKER: Speaking of mass murder, Senator Pauline Hanson seems to be of the opinion that perhaps the Port Arthur Massacre was some sort of government conspiracy to crack down on Australian gun owners. We've heard already on the program this morning what the Prime Minister had to say about that in terms of preferences, but this rather casts Pauline Hanson and everything she stands for, I think, in a rather different light. It does for me anyway. There's a line crossed for me today.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah, I think the line was crossed for me yesterday when you've got the senior members of One Nation basically soliciting donations from the National Rifle Association on the basis that they consider that if they held the balance of power, they can water down or completely reverse Australia's gun laws that were brought in by John Howard, which have been very successful in making Australia a much safer place. I mean I find that in and of itself just at a level of outrageousness that it would have to tell something to people who might otherwise vote for One Nation.

I mean, people who vote for One Nation, I guess have a range of understandable frustrations with politics and the political system and a range of outcomes, but surely this demonstrates that whatever problems and frustrations they have, Pauline Hanson and One Nation are not the answer to those frustrations and issues and challenges in their daily lives. Because what a vote for One Nation does is effectively place enormous power through potentially having a balance of power situation - as One Nation themselves point out - in a group of people and the leader of that group of people it seems seriously considers that the Port Arthur massacre was some government-led conspiracy. I mean, that must demonstrate that voting for One Nation isn't actually producing positive outcomes for the people who want those positive outcomes.

GARETH PARKER: It's very strange. I mean I think the whole thing's very strange. Is she fit to serve in the Senate or is that ultimately a matter for the people of Queensland?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That is absolutely a matter for Australian electors. And again, I understand the sort of frustrations that have caused people to move to minor parties, but a processed vote, in a sense, is a vote for someone who believes in some things and there has to be a level of accountability and assessment as to the person to whom you're allocating your vote. And Pauline Hanson seriously considering that the Port Arthur Massacre was some form of conspiracy designed to create an atmosphere where you could reform gun laws is so outrageous and outlandish, it must tell people that whatever their frustrations, Pauline Hanson and One Nation are not the answer.

GARETH PARKER: Thanks for your time this morning, Christian.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: A pleasure Gareth, cheers