OECD joins Australia push on online terror

PM Scott Morrison says the onus will be on online platforms to meet standards on extremist material.
PM Scott Morrison says the onus will be on online platforms to meet standards on extremist material.

Social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter will regularly tell the public how many terrorist posts they have taken down and how long it took under new rules Australia is developing with New Zealand and a global economic organisation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison discussed the new protocols with Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development head Angel Gurria when they met on the sidelines of the G7 summit in France on Sunday afternoon (early Monday AEST).

Once the protocols are in place, social media platforms will regularly report how many attempts there were to upload violent or extremist content, how many the platform stopped before they went up, how many were posted for more than an hour, how many downloads there were, and how the company dealt with the material that was downloaded.

Many of the large companies already report in some form, with Google the most comprehensive, but the protocols would set a global standard.

The OECD will collect the data to give governments a better point to start from in getting social media companies to do better and learn how to make sure terror and extremist content is taken down as quickly as possible.

The reporting regime will be voluntary but the Morrison government expects there will be significant pressure from the community, advertisers and peers among the largest tech companies to comply.

"We can't allow the internet to be a safe haven for terrorists and violent extremists to recruit or promote their despicable propaganda," Mr Morrison said.

"The onus will be on these online platforms to meet these standards, and be transparent about it if they don't."

Mr Gurria said any time there was a traumatic or tragic event like the Christchurch shooting, it gave rise to a number of calls for action.

"But then somebody has to lead the charge, to make this have staying power, to make this stick in a way. And that was your role," he told Mr Morrison at their meeting.

"What happened then is that the idea caught fire."

The move is similar to a recommendation in June from a government and tech industry task force, formed in response to the live-streamed Christchurch shootings, which said digital platforms should tell the public every six months about their efforts to detect and remove terrorist and extreme violent material from their services.

However, it is unclear whether it would capture message boards run by small teams, such as 8chan, where many of the manifestos posted by attackers in recent months have been initially shared.

The OECD partnership builds on other measures the Morrison government is taking at home and at international forums like the G7.

It has given eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant powers to order blocks on websites hosting abhorrent content, like the Christchurch attacker's manifesto and video footage, during times of crisis.

After the Christchurch mosque shootings, Australian internet service providers voluntarily blocked access to websites hosting the attacker's manifesto and footage of the massacre.

French President Emmanuel Macron hopes to have G7 leaders and tech companies, including Facebook, Google and Snapchat, sign a charter for an open, free and safe internet at the end of the summit.

Australian Associated Press