Following new powers granted this year in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attack, the office of Australia's eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant has issued a directive to the largest ISPs in Australia ordering them to block access to 8 websites for hosting the attacker's manifesto or video of the attacks.
The directive comes months after a string of sites, including Kiwi Farms, 4chan and 8chan, were temporarily blocked voluntarily by ISPs in the immediate wake of the Christchurch attacks. Australia's major telcos, including Optus, Vodafone, Telstra and TPG, ended up blocking 43 websites based off a list provided by Vodafone New Zealand, according to The Guardian.
According to a statement filed by the eSafety commissioner in parliament today, Grant said the move to block the eight websites was "reasonable, necessary and proportionate".
In the wake of community and political pressure following the livestreaming of the horrific terrorist attacks at Christchurch on Friday, Australian ISPs have started blocking some sites used to rehost footage of the livestream, including the infamous 8chan image board.
The Australian government has scolded representatives from the major tech companies at a meeting in Queensland on Tuesday, calling on the tech giants like Facebook and Twitter to convince regulators that they can monitor and crackdown on violent content livestreamed on their platforms.
"There are no other alternative adequate measures for achieving the objective of promoting online safety through protecting Australians from access or exposure to the Christchurch material," Grant wrote. "Based on data provided by the Communications Alliance, it is estimated that a direction given to the service providers who are members of the six ISPs would have the effect of blocking content to between approximately 95.5% and 96.4% of the Australian fixed and mobile internet subscriber base."
Under the terms of the order, these eight websites will be blocked for a further six months. If the sites remove video or the manifesto of the Christchurch shooter, those sites can be unblocked. The statement to parliament didn't outline the names of the sites — bar one — to avoid directing further traffic to them, but it offers some justification for the sites being blocked.
Furthermore, while the eSafety commissioner does not have the capacity to review all of the content available on each website, two of the eight websites are known for providing access to child sexual abuse material; two others are known for providing access to abhorrent violent material; and another is a self-described ‘World News, Politics and the Threat of Islam’ blog.
The commissioner told The Guardian that out of the 413 reports made since the introduction of new laws forcing social media and sites to remove extremist content in April, none had required the use of the site-blocking powers since the Christchurch attacks.
"We do not want Australians to have exposure or access to this material ... it could be extremely damaging to the people who are viewing it, but it can also incite further terrorist acts," the commissioner said on ABC's AM radio program early Monday morning.
In a separate email to Kotaku Australia, the eSafety commissioner's office said they were working with ISPs to build "a further protocol" to combat the viral spread of the livestream and subsequent recordings of the Christchurch massacre. "