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International relations

Australia calls for G-20 social media crackdown after shootings

Prime minister demands platforms be reined in and 'consequences' clarified

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have come in for harsh criticism for their handling of a livestreamed video from the Christchurch shootings.   © Reuters

SYDNEY -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called on Group of 20 leaders to discuss tightening social media controls following Friday's mass shootings in New Zealand.

Morrison said he has sent a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will chair the next G-20 meeting, in June in Osaka, asking that a social media crackdown be put on the agenda.

The massacre that killed 50 people, allegedly carried out by 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant, was livestreamed on Facebook, with the video being reposted numerous times immediately afterward.

"It is imperative that the global community works together to ensure that technology firms meet their moral obligation to protect the communities which they serve and from which they profit," Morrison said in the letter, which he posted on Twitter. He called for debate on how to achieve this and suggested a three-pronged strategy centering on prevention and protection, transparency, and deterrence.

As for prevention and detection, he is calling on social media operators to filter, detect and remove content created by terrorists and associated actors.

He also said the public has a right to know what steps the platforms are taking in this regard and that the G-20 should "work to ensure that there are clear consequences."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is also angry about the video's availability on social media. She has expressed an intention to question Facebook and other social media operators about how the footage was allowed to proliferate.

Mourners grieve at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the mosque mass murders at Botanical Gardens in Christchurch on March 17, 2019.   © AP

Facebook said it removed 1.5 million versions of the video in the first 24 hours after the massacre, but Ardern has expressed frustration that copies could still be viewed four days later, according to the Associated Press.

"We have been in contact with Facebook," Ardern told the AP. "They have given us updates on their efforts to have [the video] removed, but as I say, it's our view that it cannot -- should not -- be distributed, available, able to be viewed.

"It is horrendous, and while they've given us those assurances, ultimately the responsibility does sit with them."

Arden said she had received "some communication" from Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, regarding the footage.

Corporate executives are also bitter about how Facebook has handled the aftermath. Tony Fernandes, CEO of Malaysian discount flyer AirAsia, on Monday said he had closed his personal account due to the situation.

Facebook did delete Tarrant's account and his original video after being informed of the situation by New Zealand police, but copies of the video nevertheless went viral across social media sites, including Twitter.

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