Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Sunrise on Channel 7 with Sam Armytage



Subjects: Social media changes

SAM ARMYTAGE: Now in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, social media executives could be facing jail time if they fail to remove [audio skip]. Proposed government legislation will make failing to remove terror footage a criminal offence. It will hold company executives directly responsible and the companies themselves will face severe penalties. Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and Attorney-General, Christian Porter, will discuss the new rules with social media bosses and internet providers this morning. And the Attorney-General, Christian Porter, joins us ahead of that meeting.

Minister, thank you for your time today.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good morning Sam.

SAM ARMYTAGE: Now we as TV networks are subject to really tough conditions and legislation about what we can put to air. Facebook is now moving into this space as a publisher and a news provider, so of course, they should be subject to tough conditions too. But how do you do this when governments can't even get these companies to pay tax?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, we already have laws that require content to be scrutinised by social media platforms, where that content, for instance, is child pornography or things of that nature. So the idea that we can't legislate or provide systems of governance around other forms of content, I think, is not true - we can do that. It's not simple, but as you point out, things have changed after Christchurch. What we've learnt from Christchurch is that terrorists will use social media platforms to spread terror, violence and hate and they do it in a way where the social media platforms seem to have so little control over their content, that a 10-year-old can access live streaming of mass murder, which of course, as you point out, if that happened on your network or other mainstream media, that would be game over for you. That would be a license lost or very, very serious penalties.

So what we say is that if these organisations are making money out of streaming and playing content - large amounts of money, then they have to invest significant amounts of money, effort and time into controlling content. And I just think that every Australia would consider it totally unacceptable that a 10-year-old - or any Australian for that matter - could log onto a social media platform that we used to use to tell stories about our holidays and our dogs, and witness violent massacre and mass murder. I mean, that is just totally unacceptable in a situation that we're discussing today.

SAM ARMYTAGE: It is, but the key here is, as you say, is money, and these social media giants are making so much money and they are not in a hurry to change. Do you honestly think that Mark Zuckerberg, for example, could do time in jail for what is posted on Facebook?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, the first thing we'll do today is discuss what they think they can do about controlling this sort of content. But if those answers and responses are not acceptable, then of course there is a legislative path that you can take here. And that legislative path may have monetary consequences for Facebook or for other social media platforms or for Google. But I think Australians would expect that if companies are making millions, sometimes billions of dollars of profit, that some of the profit can be put back into controlling content. And there are very sophisticated technological solutions, as well as employing people, to ensure that content is moderated and is taken down. But with respect to Christchurch Sam, it was over an hour before anyone did anything, and that seems to us to be totally unacceptable.

SAM ARMYTAGE: Yes. Well, I mean, Christchurch was so horrific in the first place, but then what really was really awful was how many times that video was then shared by people. What about penalties for people who share these videos?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I think you have to start with the core problem first and the core problem is the fact that a terrorist in this instance filmed their own perpetration of mass murder, live streamed it on Facebook and it was a very, very long time in the scheme of things - in excess of an hour - before Facebook themselves seemed to want to do or were able to do anything about that situation. That is the core and central problem that we will be discussing today.  How is it that social media platforms can better respond to ensure that terrorists don't use their platforms to live stream terrorist events? Now that is a fairly crisp and simple problem that we want fairly crisp and simple answers from social media today, as to how they will better approach that problem.

SAM ARMYTAGE: Well, we hope you get it. I don't think it's going to be that easy from these social media giants, but Attorney-General Christian Porter, we thank you for your time; good luck with this one.