Australia's new social media law certainly has tough penalties. It allows for fines of up to 10 per cent of a tech giant's revenue or up to three years' jail for their executives if they fail to take "swift" action against "abhorrent" content.

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But NZ Council For Civil Liberties chairman Thomas Beagle tells the Herald the new law "doesn't look particularly well thought through or effective."

"What behaviour is it going to change? The corporate-owned hosting companies like Facebook and YouTube [part of Google] are the ones that already have their own standards forbidding this type of content, while others like 8chan and Kiwifarms - that site that told the NZ police to get lost after the Chch massacre - will continue to ignore it."


While many have criticised the timeliness of the response from the large social media companies as they have struggled to suppress constantly re-uploaded copies of the Christchurch gunman's video, "the answer to that is going to be the social media platforms implementing better technical solutions," Beagle says.

He adds, "As for New Zealand, it appears that our current censorship law is already providing a way to stop the distribution of this type of video by declaring it to be objectionable. This can be used against both the large media companies and individuals sharing this type of video."

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A teenager is in custody for sharing the gunman's clip. So is a Christchurch businessman. NZ's censorship laws allow for fines of up to $10,000 for individuals who share banned material, and a jail term of up to 14 years. Corporates face fines of up to six figures.

"We can expect further discussion of how we're going to handle extremist content online but it looks as though Australia has just given us a lesson in how not to do it - in a rush," Beagle says.

Facebook won't lose sleep

Meanwhile, barrister Chris Patterson told Mike Hosking that Facebook and Google won't be losing any sleep about Australia's latest social media crackdown.

Although it threatens social media bosses with huge fines or even jail time, Patterson says their companies are based in the US - not Australia.

"The Americans have a very entrenched right of freedom in expression and speech and the Australian legislation appears to not only curtail that but draw a very clear bright line," he says.


"Facebook and YouTube are probably the two big players, both of which are in the US and neither of which are going to take much attention or care a lot about Australian legislation."

Facebook, for one, has already made it clear it considers that its NZ users fall under US privacy law.

Entrepreneur critical

Scott Farquhar, founder of the hot Aussie startup Atlassian (owner of Trello) said that no one wanted abhorrent violent material on the internet but "the legislation is flawed and will unnecessarily cost jobs and damage our tech industry".

Read an explainer of the Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material Act here.