Australia Laws Target Social Media Firms with Fines, Prison Over Streaming Content

social media

The government in Australia passed legislation that seeks to stop live streaming of violent acts across social media platforms.

As reported last week, the legislation comes in response to the attacks on mosques earlier this year in New Zealand that killed 50 people.

Under the terms of the law, penalties can be levied at up to 10 percent of a firm’s top line. There also may be prison sentences in the offing for companies’ executives if such content is not removed in a timely manner.  Facebook, of course, had faced criticism over such content and the length of time it took livestreams of the mosque attacks to be removed.

According to the news report, Australia’s Attorney General Christian Porter said that “this is most likely a world first in terms of legislating the conduct of social media and online platforms.” He singled out the ability to impose penalties “where an organization like Facebook lets something live-stream and play for a long period of time on their platform,” he said.

Yet there were some critics of the new law, as the Law Council of Australia said it  “is being thought up on the run without any proper consultation.”

As reported, the council “is not clear” on whether companies would be fined according to their global annual revenue, or on turnover tied specifically to Australia.

Zuckerberg Repeats Calls for Regulation

Separately, in the wake of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s call last week for more internet regulation, the executive repeated the same exhortation later in the week. He told ABC News Wednesday that companies including Facebook need laws that are focused on political speech.

“We need new rules,” he said. “The current laws around what is political advertising don’t consider discussion issues to be political. It’s not clear to me that we want a private company to be making that kind of a fundamental decision about what is political speech and how should that be regulated. That seems like something there should be a more democratic process around.”

Singapore, Too

Australia was not the only country to consider bringing  legislation into place earlier this month targeting social media. Singapore is focusing on fake news through a bill that was introduced Monday (April 1) into Parliament, where sites will have to correct or take down misleading claims and falsehoods. Fines of up to the equivalent of $740,000 will be imposed and 10 year prison sentences could be in the offing.

As reported by Bloomberg, “There are a lot of falsehoods being propagated,” Singapore Law Minister K. Shanmugam told reporters on Monday. “If they are not dealt with, then free speech itself will be undermined, democracy will be undermined, public institutions will be undermined.” In response, Facebook said through its vice president for public policy in the Asia Pacific, Simon Milner, that the firm is concerned with “aspects of the law that grant broad powers to the Singapore executive branch to compel us to remove content they deem to be false and proactively push a government notification to users. Giving people a place to express themselves freely and safely is important to us and we have a responsibility to handle any government request to remove alleged misinformation carefully and thoughtfully.”

Separately, touching on tax policy, in Austria, the country’s government has proposed taxes of as much as 5 percent of revenues of companies like Facebook and Alibaba and Amazon. The law seeks to tax companies that log sales through subsidiary units in the EU with relatively lower taxation rates. The tax would apply to companies that have annual top lines of at least $843 million, and where $28 million is tied to Austria.



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