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Christchurch Attack Fallout: 8 Australian Web Sites Blocked

Australia’s major telecommunications companies have been ordered to block eight Web sites that have been hosting videos of the Christchurch terrorist attacks or the alleged gunman’s manifesto. The move has been made by the eSafety Commissioner, using newly established government rules.

While the sites have been blocked voluntarily by most telcos for five months, the violent material hasn’t been removed, leading eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant (pictured) to formally order an additional six months’ block.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher says that Australian telcos acted quickly after the terrorist attacks in March, but the Web sites’ owners have failed to remove the content, despite having been given notice that they would continue to be blocked.

Julie Inman Grant said there is a “very, very high threshold” for “illegal, excessively violent” content under the rules, and all sites involved had been given ample time to respond.

“The initial list was 45 Web sites. It’s down to eight,” she said. “To me this is an arm’s race. No matter your platform, [or] how advanced it is, there will be people out there who try to misuse them.

“We have really reached a tipping point with the tech industry … self-regulation is not working.”

Telco industry group Communications Alliance chief executive John Stanton said the new site-blocking rules are something his organisation has pushed for, “because the blocks from major [Internet service providers] were put in place voluntarily without a sound legal basis”.

“We needed a government direction to continue those blocks but also a pathway to unblock when the material is removed,” he told the SMH.

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