Christchurch terror attack: New Zealand should introduce new laws for social media companies - expert

A Kiwi computer science expert wants New Zealand to follow Australia's lead in considering new social media laws in the wake of the livestreaming of the Christchurch terror attacks.

On Monday, Australian media reported Prime Minister Scott Morrison was considering tough new criminal laws which would see social media company executives held accountable if material containing extreme violence was not quickly removed from their sites.

It comes in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack, which saw the alleged gunman livestream his killing spree on Facebook - footage which was quickly circulated onto other sites.

"We need to prevent social media platforms being weaponised," Morrison said ahead of a meeting with top internet company executives, adding that Australia "will take action" if social media companies fail to act when extreme footage circulates on their platforms.

Computer science expert Alistair Knott from the University of Otago agrees harsher laws should be on the cards.

"It is quite important that we find some way of making big companies operate in a way that is socially useful and at the moment they are just not set up to do that," he said.

"This current event in Christchurch is just a tool to help us think about this right now and for us to take the lead in some of these issues which affect the whole world."

In Australia, it is proposed that penalties could escalate depending on the length of time the material remains on the site.

Dr Knott told Newshub New Zealand could also enforce penalties.

"It could involve, for instance, imposing fines on companies which don't take down things which are unpleasant, reports of terrorist events or hate speech."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also come out strong against social media companies not responding quickly enough to the illicit video being shared online.

In her speech to Parliament last week, she said: "We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what is said on them is not the responsibility of the place where they are published. They are the publisher."

In a statement to Newshub last week, Google said it had removed "tens of thousands of videos [and] terminated hundreds of accounts created to promote or glorify the shooter".

Facebook said it took down over a million copies of the video in the wake of the shooting.