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Warnings Over Rushed Social Media Laws Following Christchurch Massacre Video

Law Council president Arthur Moses has urged Australian politicians not to rush through legislation cracking down on social media broadcasts of violence.

Lawyers and a leading employer group have urged the government to slam the brakes on harsh new penalties for social media companies that broadcast horrific terrorist attacks.

Legislation cleared the Senate on Wednesday night, leaving the government one day to secure its passage through the House of Representatives before next month's election.

The Morrison government announced the legislative changes after the Christchurch terror attack, in which 50 people were killed, was broadcast by the shooter on Facebook.

Christchurch Service
Image: Twitter/ Scott Morrison

Under the proposed measures, social media executives could face a jail sentence and companies would be breaking Australian law if they did not take down footage of terrorist acts immediately.

Law Council president Arthur Moses said steps needed to be taken to ensure social media was not weaponised but proper consultation was needed.

"As we know, laws formulated as a knee-jerk reaction to a tragic event do not necessarily equate to good legislation and can have myriad unintended consequences," he said on Thursday.

The Law Council wants the proposed laws referred to a parliamentary committee.

But the bill looks likely to pass parliament on the final sitting day before next month's election, with Labor supporting its passage through the upper house.

Mr Moses said the legislation could silence and criminalise whistleblowers trying to bring attention to violent atrocities occurring overseas.

He said imposing penalties on companies based on their annual turnover rather than a maximum set of penalties could lead to difficulties with sentencing.

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"This would be bad for certainty and bad for business. It could have a chilling effect on businesses investing in Australia," the law council president said.

"We also need to be sensible when working on these offences and not demand of social media companies what they cannot reasonably be expected to do."

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the bill deserved full consideration and scrutiny.

"We urge all political parties to resist the temptation to rush new social media legislation through the Parliament without proper consideration," he said.

Facebook took down 1.5 million posts of the footage of the Christchurch shootings but says none of the 200 people who watched the live video of the massacre immediately reported it.