Australia and New Zealand have a powerful ally in tackling the problem of live-streaming violence such as the Christchurch massacre on the internet: Microsoft.
The tech giant’s president Brad Smith met with NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier in the week, before addressing a business lunch in Canberra on Wednesday.
The Australian government is weighing up new laws to crack down on companies who do not take fast online action against terrorists who are “weaponising” social media to spread hate and fear.
The government is also establishing a task force which will include representatives from social media platforms and internet service providers to investigate short and medium-term responses.
Mr Smith said the moment was rightly being seized by the Australian and New Zealand governments.
“The days of thinking about these platforms as being akin to the postal service with no responsibility, even legally, for what is inside a letter – I think those days are gone,” he told the Committee for Economic Development of Australia event.
He said that was not to say they should be regulated like television and radio, but a balance must be struck – and a “basic level of responsibility” be put in place – to ensure the public’s trust and confidence.
“There are some services in the world of social media that you would never see pass muster as a radio station or a television network because they are just almost exclusively devoted to spewing hatred,” Mr Smith said.
“One question is, is there some base level of standards of decency or civilisation we are going to ask these networks or platforms to be bound to.”
There is also a real conversation to be had about the ability of every person in the world to live-stream video to a global audience, especially where it involved the depiction of physical violence.
“Some of what we are seeing is technology being used to put social cohesion at risk – whether it is nation states exploiting it through social media and these kinds of attacks or terrorist action – how do we grapple with that?”
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.
The first user report about the original video was made 29 minutes after it was posted – 12 minutes after the live broadcast ended – the company said last week.