G20 leaders in Osaka, Japan have agreed to a compact to take action against social media companies Facebook, Twitter and Google if they fail to act against the live streaming of violence and terrorist acts and remove terrorist and violent extremist content shared on their platforms.
The compact was led by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who has already introduced laws that allow for the jailing of social media executives for failing to remove violent or terrorist related content from their platforms.
Scott Morrison had been pushing for a global response to violent extremist and terrorist content online following the livestreaming to Facebook of the Christchurch mosque shooting in March.
The United States was hesitant to agree to the compact due to concerns over free speech but with the wording changed to directly refer to violent terrorist content the US signed on.
The compact statement agreed to says “We the leaders of the G20, reaffirm our strongest condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”
“For us all to reap the rewards of digitalisation, we are committed to realising an open, free and secure internet. The internet must not be a safe haven for terrorists to recruit, incite or prepare terrorist acts.
“This must be achieved in a way that is consistent with national and international law, including human rights and fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression and access to information — we hold these in high regard”.
The signing of the compact with all G20 nations agreeing was a significant international victory for Scott Morrison.
I want to thank @AbeShinzo for helping Australia put this on the agenda, as well as @EmmanuelMacron, @JustinTrudeau and @theresa_may for their strong support at the G20. Thanks also to @jacindaardern whom we worked with from— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) June 29, 2019
Morrison went onto to say in a statement “Global leaders have raised the bar for social media companies in the fight to crackdown on sharing terrorist content”.
“Australia has been working tirelessly since the horrific Christchurch terrorist attacks to send a clear message to internet companies, together with our international partners, about the special responsibility those companies have in the fight against terrorism”
“It is a clear warning from global leaders to internet companies that they must step up. It builds on the Christchurch Call to Acton and affirms our commitments as governments to follow through with practical efforts to prevent something like that ever happening again”.
The G20 compact cannot bind the social media companies into any action as any laws or restrictions are up to each nation. But it sends a warning that direct legislative intervention will be enacted by governments if social media platforms do not address terrorist and violent content being uploaded on their platforms.
With the compact only explicitly targeting violent and terrorist content, rather than the vague term “extremist content” it does not pose a grave threat to free speech and internet freedom as some feared. Extremist content can be defined as anything that falls out outside of the views of mainstream political parties.
Though nobody could accuse the social media giants of not taking steps themselves to ban what they deem “extremist content” with post the Christchurch massacre countless nationalist Facebook pages have been deleted and YouTube implementing a new policy against “hateful and supremacist content”.