Australia Goes Authoritarian Over Christchurch Shooting, Threatens Jail to Social Media Executives for "Violent Content"

It’s fallen off the front pages at this point, but the aftereffects of the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand are still coming to fruition.

Several weeks ago, I reported on New Zealand’s new gun ban and the false idea that gun owners were rushing to voluntarily turn in their guns. At the time, 37 guns had been turned in out of an estimated 1.2 million in the country.

The shooter was from Australia and that’s led the Aussies to also act in a reactionary fashion, passing laws that will do nothing to stop shootings but only curtail liberty.

The latest comes from a law passed by their parliament which will seek to imprison social media executives if they don’t take down “violent content” in an “expeditious” manner.

Australia’s parliament has passed new legislation to criminalize Internet platforms for failing to remove violent videos and audio, after an Australian gunman livestreamed himself shooting worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Under the new legislation, social media executives — among other online content or hosting providers — could be imprisoned for up to three years and companies could face penalties of up to 10 percent of their annual revenue if they do not remove violent content in an “expeditious” manner.

The bill passed on Thursday local time with cross-party support but faced criticism, including that it could cause increased censorship and that the process was rushed.

This is crazy.

It’s also nonsensical. The Christchurch shooter did not suddenly decide to kill dozens of people because he saw a violent image online. Laws like this infantilize issues that are actually much more complicated. White supremacy is evil and has to be rebuffed on an ideological level. You don’t stop white supremacy by outlawing Pepe the Frog memes or throwing Facebook executives in jail. The same is true for the gun laws New Zealand passed in the wake of the shooting.

The road to tyranny is paved with good intentions. These countries are making a big mistake by attacking basic liberties in order to satisfy short term emotional appeals. Because they don’t have the constitutional rights we do in the United States, there are no guardrails to stop their further descent into madness. What happens when the wrong person gains power? Who gets to decide what’s actually “violent” content? These are questions that likely haven’t even been thought through.

In the end, this isn’t really our problem. But it’s sad to see countries devolve into authoritarianism by using a crisis as an excuse. There are usually ulterior motives in these situations and I doubt every parliament member who voted for this is doing so for the right reasons. Without the 1st and 2nd Amendments, the United States would no doubt follow the same path. You can already find hundreds of national Democratic politicians in Washington D.C. who would happily limit free speech and eliminate all gun rights if given the chance.

For the moment, our Constitution is holding back the tide. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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