NZ Terror Video Makes Internet Regulation Certain

The truly awful news this weekend of the terror attack on two mosques in New Zealand gave rise to many questions around gun laws, the suspect's connections with a far-right group and whether he was truly a lone wolf.

One thing that is far more certain is that it is the final piece of evidence the UK Government needs to bring in online regulation.

It may not be immediately obvious to people outside the UK, but there is a historic bond, kept alive through the Commonwealth, between New Zealand, Australia and the UK. That's what made the attack not only shocking to hear about but we then have to take on board that the attack had been streamed live. It's the kind of development one would imagine only happened in thrillers or an episode of the thought-provoking "Black Mirror" series on Netflix. 

Facebook has finally ended its silence on the issue, saying that only two hundred people watched the live stream and that the video itself had been viewed 4,000 times. More than a million attempts to upload the video were blocked before they could be posted, but vile individuals who wanted to share the carnage were successful 300,000 times. 

For Digital Minister Margot James, that was 300,000 too many. She spoke yesterday of her deep concerns that the mixture of technology and human moderators still fell short and so many uploads were possible. The Guardian covers her comments today, and they can be summed up as Facebook needing to understand and deliver on the responsibilities it has as a social media platform that allows live video uploads. 

It is James' office that is responsible for drawing up the Government's white paper on internet regulation that is expected to be released in a matter of weeks. There has been a long line of people compiling reports and collecting research that suggests the online giants need to be regulated. The tragic case of Molly Russell, whose suicide has been linked to social media content, is a case in point. 

Now, however, the needle has moved off the scale with a terrorist able to live stream an attack in which 49 people were killed, and then that video was then successfully uploaded 300,000 times. It just takes the discussion around regulation to a whole new level. 

It is an incredibly safe assumption that Facebook's inability to block harmful hate content like this will be the final piece of evidence the UK Government will need to come down hard on the side of regulation with huge fines should such content ever be broadcast live again, let alone shared afterwards.

The news has been filled with comments that reporters and channels have tried unsuccessfully to get hold of Facebook's new chief spin doctor, Nick Clegg, who was only too happy to be filmed a week or two ago to talk about how Facebook accepted it needed to do more.

The chatter has now stopped because he knows it -- and Mark Zuckerberg knows it -- stiff regulation is now a formality. It's just a couple of weeks and a white paper away.

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