Australia plans to censor extremist online content following Christchurch mosque attacks

Australia plans to censor extremist online content following Christchurch mosque attacks
Australia's prime minister said his country would tackle websites to stop the spread of extreme content, following a deadly mosque attack that killed 51 worshippers.
3 min read
26 August, 2019
The Christchurch mosque attacks killed 51 worshippers [Getty]
Australia plans to block websites to stop the spread of extreme content during "crisis events", the country's prime minister has said.  

Speaking from the G7 in Biarritz on Sunday, Scott Morrison said the measures were needed in response to the deadly attack on two New Zealand mosques in March. 

The live-streamed murder of 51 worshippers "demonstrated how digital platforms and websites can be exploited to host extreme violent and terrorist content", he said in a statement.  

"That type of abhorrent material has no place in Australia, and we are doing everything we can to deny terrorists the opportunity to glorify their crimes, including taking action locally and globally." 

Under the measures, Australia's eSafety Commissioner would work with companies to restrict access to domains propagating terrorist material.  

A new 24/7 Crisis Coordination Centre will be tasked with monitoring terror-related incidents and extremely violent events for censorship.  

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.  

It is not yet clear how the measures will be enforced. Morrison has previously suggested that legislation may come if technology companies do not cooperate. 

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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