New Zealand Police warned Thursday that social media companies will face consequences for failing to keep their platforms free of footage recorded during last week’s mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch.
A spokesperson for the country’s national police force told The Washington Times that authorities plan to take a “pragmatic approach” with respect to censoring video of the massacre, six days since dozens of Muslims were slaughtered during a rampage streamed live on Facebook by the suspected killer, a 28-year-old Australian man arrested for murder.
“We will work with companies and platforms in removing objectionable material,” said the spokesperson. “However, where companies or platforms knowingly or recklessly turn a blind eye to this material, they may be subject to an investigation.”
Seventeen minutes of last Friday’s attacks was broadcast live on Facebook, and copies of the footage were quickly shared across social media as Silicon Valley scrambled to stop their spread.
Authorities subsequently classified footage of the attack as “objectionable material” under New Zealand law, and police have reportedly arrested several people on related charges.
“Every New Zealander should now be clear that this clip is an illegal, harmful and reprehensible record created to promote a terrorist cause,” Chief Censor David Shanks said Monday. “If you have a record of it, you must delete it. If you see it, you should report it. Possessing or distributing it is illegal, and only supports a criminal agenda.”
Facebook said Wednesday that the original video was viewed about 4,000 times prior to being removed, but that roughly 300,000 videos of the attacks were successfully uploaded by other users within the first 24 hours.
“Our greatest priorities right now are to support the New Zealand Police in every way we can, and to continue to understand how our systems and other online platforms were used as part of these events so that we can identify the most effective policy and technical steps,” Facebook said in a blog post.
The New Zealand Herald reported Thursday that a New Zealander in her 20s was arrested on suspicion of inciting racial disharmony for posting a hateful message on Facebook about the Christchurch shootings, and that an 18-year-old was apprehended days earlier for allegedly posting a video of the attack and various messages “inciting extreme violence.” The teen was denied bail and ordered back in court April 8, regional outlets reported.
Philip Neville Arps, a 44-year-old businessman from Christchurch, was similarly denied bail Thursday in Christchurch District Court, meanwhile. He faces two charges of distributing footage of the attack, each carrying a maximum sentence of 14 years if convicted, the Herald reported.