The Australian office of the eSafety Commissioner has issued eight notices to websites hosting the Buffalo terrorist attack video or manifesto, but has not blocked any from being accessed in Australia.
On Saturday, an 18-year-old white man allegedly opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at the Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly Black neighbourhood of Buffalo, New York. According to US authorities, as he struck 13 people with gunfire, killing 10, he used a camera to livestream the rampage, and posted a 180-page manifesto online.
In the aftermath of the Christchurch attack, which the alleged Buffalo shooter reportedly referenced in the manifesto, the Australian government swiftly passed new laws to empower the eSafety commissioner to order internet service providers in Australia to block sites hosting the related video or manifesto. It was later enshrined into Australia’s Online Safety Act in 2020.
After the Buffalo terrorist attack, the eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, determined the video and manifesto was subject to removal under the Online Safety Act, and issued notices to eight overseas-hosted websites to remove the content, giving each site 24 hours notice.
The letters warned the sites that individuals could be fined $2,664 and companies $13,320 for failing to comply with the notice, and additional fines of $111,000 for individuals or $555,000 for businesses may also be imposed.
Four of the sites have since removed the content.
“Some of the worst fringe sites in the world host this terrible material and I make no apology for taking action against them to ensure Australians are protected,” Inman Grant said.
One site to receive a notice posted the letter in full on the site, and replied “the United States has laws protecting freedom of speech and the distribution of information”, with many of the comments in response mocking the attempt to have the material removed.
The site in question was also briefly blocked in Australia for hosting material related to the Christchurch attack.
The commissioner hasn’t taken the next step of ordering access to the sites to be blocked in Australia, Guardian Australia understands, because it hasn’t met the conditions of an “online crisis event” due to the relatively limited distribution of the material on gore websites and file hosts.
The commissioner could take other action, including issuing fines to the sites or their web hosts, although it is unclear how that would be enforced on sites not hosted in Australia. The commissioner could also ask search engines to remove links to the content from search results.
New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, announced on Wednesday her office was investigating Twitch, 4chan, 8chan and Discord along with other platforms the Buffalo shooter used to amplify the attack.