Brandis launches $18m 'real time' social media monitoring project

'Combating Terrorist Propaganda in Australia' will be used to monitor "the impact of extremist narratives on domestic audiences"

Attorney-General George Brandis this morning announced the government would spend $18 million on a program to monitor and censor "the lies and propaganda terrorist groups are promulgating online to gain support and sympathy from vulnerable young Australians".

The 'Combating Terrorist Propaganda in Australia' initiative "will limit the impact of extremist narratives on domestic audiences by reducing the support that terrorist groups garner on the internet and social media", a statement issued by the Attorney-General said.

"The new initiative will establish a social media monitoring and analysis capability to better understand extremist narratives and how they affect Australians," Brandis said.

"The fight against terrorist groups like ISIL is taking place online as they continue to weaponise information and spread their messages of hate and violence through social media," Brandis said.

"The measures will also help reduce access to extremist material online through the recently launched Report Online Extremism tool and by working with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, private sector and international partners to take down or otherwise address extremist content," the Attorney-General said.

The launch of the 'Report Online Extremism' was announced earlier this month by Brandis. It allows "people to report illegal or offensive extremist material they find online".

"This will create new opportunities for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to investigate violent extremist online content, including pictures and videos reported to them by the public," a statement issued on behalf of Brandis said at the time.

"It is illegal to use social media to make threats to kill or cause serious harm to another person and, following the Government’s recent reforms, to advocate terrorism."

Today's announcement came as Brandis attended the White House's Countering Violent Extremism Summit in the US.

During a doorstop interview at the summit Brandis told reporters that measures taken under new initiative "will include real time monitoring of social media, they will include an active take down of terrorist websites and terrorist postings and also funding of civil society organisations to establish a counter-narrative to combat and contest terrorist narratives that have been mediated online".

"I think that we all appreciate that the online environment is a rich environment for terrorist recruitment and terrorist propaganda and one of the first orders of business of all of the nations who are gathered here today is to defeat and thwart terrorist propaganda online," the Attorney-General said.

"We are monitoring social media for the purpose of identifying, and where appropriate, taking down terrorist propaganda just as we monitor social media for the purpose for identifying and taking down paedophilia, other organised criminal activity that is mediated through the media and there is a very direct analogy," Brandis said.

"We must move beyond the notion that some people still have that the internet and social media are a lawless space."

Read more: Social media delivering for Australian organisations, analysts find

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