Australia blocks extremist websites following Christchurch mosque attacks

Australia blocks extremist websites following Christchurch mosque attacks
Australian internet providers have blocked a website hosting the Christchurch massacre where more than 51 Muslims were killed inside a mosque.
3 min read
09 September, 2019
The Christchurch massacre in New Zealand killed 51 people [Getty]
Australia ordered internet providers on Monday to block eight websites that published content linked to the Christchurch mosque massacre - a first under new censorship rules.

 The overseas websites were blacklisted because they "continue to provide access to the video of the Christchurch terrorist attacks or the manifesto of the alleged perpetrator", said Julie Inman Grant, Australia's eSafety commissioner.

Authorities refused to name the websites - which will be blocked for at least six months - saying it could bring them more traffic.

Several other websites were asked to take down content and had complied, Inman Grant added.

"The remaining rogue websites need only to remove the illegal content to have the block against them lifted," she said.

One of the eight websites was a blog focusing on the so-called "Threat of Islam", according to an explanatory statement lodged with the Federal Register of Legislation.

Canberra has looked to expand its censorship powers after the Australian gunman live-streamed the killing of 51 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques in March. 

In the wake of the Christchurch attack, Australia set up a task force with global tech giants like Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter to address the spread of extremist material online.

The Communication Alliance - a telecommunications lobby group - said internet providers had already blocked all eight websites voluntarily before the order, but welcomed the legal clarity provided by the government decision.

In defence of the new censorship powers put into action by Australia's conservative government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last month: "That type of abhorrent material has no place in Australia."

"We are doing everything we can to deny terrorists the opportunity to glorify their crimes, including taking action locally and globally."

A new 24/7 Crisis Coordination Centre is also being set up, tasked with monitoring terror-related incidents and extremely violent events for censorship.

Gun buy-back scheme

In June, New Zealand launched a gun buyback scheme, amid plans by Wellington to rid the country of semi-automatic weapons following the mosque massacre earlier this year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed to tighten New Zealand's gun laws and said her government would make the changes within just three months.

"The buyback and amnesty has one objective - to remove the most dangerous weapons from circulation following the loss of life at Al-Noor and Linwood mosques," Police Minister Stuart Nash said.

The Australian man accused of the killings, Brenton Tarrant, is alleged to have used an arsenal of five weapons, including two military style semi-automatic rifles (MSSAs), in the attacks on two Christchurch mosques.

New Zealand lawmakers voted to ban MSSAs, which allow the rapid fire of high-caliber bullets, by a margin of 119-1 in the wake of the worst massacre in modern New Zealand history.

Licenced firearms owners will have six months to surrender weapons that have now been deemed illegal under the scheme. 

A gun amnesty ensuring they will not face prosecution during that period.

After the amnesty expires, possession of a prohibited firearms is punishable by up to five years in jail.

Compensation will be based on the model and condition of the firearm, with the total cost of the scheme estimated at NZ$218 million ($143 million).

That includes NZ$18 million towards administration costs for what Nash said was "a huge logistical exercise".

The police know of 14,300 registered MSSA rifles and there were an estimated 1.2 million firearms in the community, with the vast majority still legal under the new rules.

Police said they were organising "collection events" around the country where firearms owners could submit their weapons.

Tarrant appeared in court pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges, as well as 51 counts of murder and 40 of attempted murder. He was committed to stand trial in May next year.

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