NZ, Australia ISPs blocked websites to remove graphic video of shooting

Sites including 4chan, LiveLeak and Voat - English-language websites where users generally post anonymously.

March 22, 2019 15:10
3 minute read.
NZ, Australia ISPs blocked websites to remove graphic video of shooting

A still image taken from video circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, shows him driving in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019. (photo credit: SOCIAL MEDIA/REUTERS)


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Facebook has disseminated further details of its efforts to remove videos of the attack on the two Christchurch, New Zealand mosques in which 50 people were killed and scores more wounded just one week ago, according to a report by BBC.

Additionally, internet service providers in Australia and New Zealand recently blocked full websites that shared the videos of the attack and/or were complicit in spreading the videos contents.

Many of the blocked websites were up and running hours after the sites were initially taken down. Australians were allowed to access the sites again once the copies of the shooting were taken off their sites. Sites including 4chan, LiveLeak and Voat - English-language websites where users generally post content anonymously.

"This was an extreme case which we think requires an extraordinary response," Vodafone Australia said in a statement.

Many examples of graphic content can normally be found on these websites, mainly 4chan, which was one of the main websites users went to in order to find leaked pictures from the personal phones of celebrities during the Hollywood iCloud hack occurring a few years back, in which countless celebrities phones were hacked and their contents posted across the internet, including nude photos and personal information.

Telstra, an Australian internet service provider, understood that their decision to block said access might "inconvenience" users of the websites, however, the decision was "the right thing to do."

Facebook, as well as Twitter, did not block access due to the "active steps" they took to remove the graphic material.

Facebook also claims that no reports about the live-streamed video were made until about 12 minutes after the video ended.

"The video was reported for reasons other than suicide and as such it was handled according to different procedures," wrote vice-president of integrity at Facebook, Guy Rosen.

Rosen also claimed that when users reported the video, the tags they used to flag the graphic content gave Facebook an initial indication that the severity of the content did not require immediate attention, however, after reviewing they realized this was not the case - leading the social media conglomerate to open an investigation to re-examine the reporting system currently in place.

In addition, Facebook is looking into attempts to share information with other media organizations in order to make it easier to spot copies and hastily take them down.

"A community of bad actors" continually uploaded edited copies of the video in order to defeat the graphic content detection system in place, according to Facebook. Also, people shared copies of the video recorded from their TV screen or computers, which made it harder to spot these re-posts.

All-in-all 800 different versions of the video were shared and subsequently blocked on Facebook.

Both mosques attacked, the Al Noor and nearby Linwood mosque, plan to be reopened. Thousands of worshipers are expected at the Al Noor mosque, where the majority of victims died.

Most victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand's South Island, has been charged with murder following the attack. He was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, when police said he was likely to face more charges.

The first victims were buried on Wednesday and burials continued on Thursday. Families of the victims have been frustrated by the delay as under Islam bodies are usually buried within 24 hours.

A mass burial is expected to be held on Friday. Body washing will go on through the day and night to have the dead ready for burial, said one person involved in the process. Police have identified and released to the families the bodies of some 30 victims.

Twenty nine people wounded in the attacks remain in the hospital, eight are still in intensive care.

The gunman broadcast his attack live on Facebook and it was quickly distributed to other platforms, prompting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and others to rebuke technology companies and call for greater efforts to stop violence and extremist views being aired on social media.

New Zealand will ban military style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new gun laws following the killing of 50 people in the country's worst mass shooting, Ardern said on Thursday.

Ardern said she expects the new laws to be in place by April 11 and buy-back scheme will be established for banned weapons.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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