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Crackdown On Websites Hosting Extremist Content

Forums like 4chan and 8chan are likely to be targeted under new government protocols to shut down "extremist" websites during terror events.

Access to specific domains hosting terrorist or extreme violent material will be blocked by the Australian government to prevent the spread of material similar to the Christchurch terror attack in future similar events.

A joint press release from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, and Communications and Cyber Safety Minister Paul Fletcher on Sunday confirmed the measures were to protect Australians from exposure to material like the Christchurch suspect's live-stream of the mass shooting.

“The shocking events that took place in Christchurch demonstrated how digital platforms and websites can be exploited to host extreme violent and terrorist content,” Morrison said.

“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."

Scott Morrison
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: AAP.

It comes as Morrison arrives at the G7 summit in France, after being invited by French President Emmanuel Macron. Morrison is seeking to build on the progress he made at the G20 meeting in Osaka in asking countries to root out violent extremist content from all corners of the internet.

He is expected to discuss the issue on Sunday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who hosted the G20 and strongly backed Morrison's efforts.

The new measures have been on the government's agenda for a number of months, and comes on the recommendation of a taskforce formed in March this year which included representatives from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Amazon, Microsoft, Telstra, Vodafone, TPF and Optus.

As well as a "clear and unambiguous" content blocking framework for crisis events, the new protocol will include a 24/7 Crisis Coordination Centre to monitor and notify government agencies of online crisis events as they occur.

“This new protocol will better equip our agencies to rapidly detect and shut down the sharing of dangerous material online, even as a crisis may still be unfolding,” Minister Dutton said.

The eSafety Commissioner will make these "independent" determinations on a case by case basis "while upholding important internet freedoms", the joint release said.

Facebook
Facebook changed its policy following the Christchurch shooting. Photo: Getty.

Shadow Communications and Cybersecurity Minister Tim Watts questioned the measures, asking what it was doing to progress the other measures of 'The Christchurch Call', introduced by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in May designed to combat radicalisation of extremist ideologies online.

"What is the Morrison government doing to better understand and support targeted interventions during the violent radicalisation process?" Watts said on Twitter.

"What is the Morrison government doing to counter the narratives of violent white nationalists?"

Facebook changed its live-stream policy in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack, during which the company scrambled to remove 1.5 million videos containing footage of the massacre, which killed 51 people.

"Live can be abused and we want to take steps to limit that abuse," Facebook said in a statement.

It implemented a "one strike" policy, where users who violated the platforms' most serious policies would be restricted from using Live for a set period of time, for example 30 days.

"For instance, someone who shares a link to a statement from a terrorist group with no context will now be immediately blocked from using Live for a set period of time," Facebook's VP of Integrity Guy Rosen said.

Terror events and mass shootings are being increasingly linked to online forums, in particular the far-right forum 8chan.

As well as the Christchurch attack, in which a link to the Facebook live-stream was posted to 8chan, suspects in the in the California synagogue shooting, which killed three, and the El Paso Walmart shooting, which killed 20, reportedly posted to the platform as well. The first was a racist and antisemitic 'open letter'; the second a white nationalist rant.

With AAP.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au