Technology giants were told last night “enough is enough” after the massacre of 49 people at two mosques in New Zealand was live-streamed around the world in the first “terror attack designed for social media”.
Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, condemned tech firms’ failure to stop the 17-minute video being shared for more than 10 hours after the self-professed white supremacist killer Brenton Tarrant opened fire on Muslims at prayer.
Reacting to a tweet in which YouTube claimed it was working to remove the footage, Mr Javid said YouTube, Google, Facebook and Twitter “really need to do more to stop violent extremism being promoted on your platforms”. He added: “Take some ownership. Enough is enough.”
Damian Collins, the chairman of the Commons culture committee, said it appeared to be a “terror attack designed for social media” and demonstrated why there had to be “statutory regulation of the distribution of content online through social networks”.
He said: “It’s a viral contagion spread through social media, helped by their algorithms. The firms need to carry out a major audit into who was sharing this film and how it was shared. Groups have deliberately spread it and those accounts should be closed down.”
Tarrant, 28, from Grafton, Australia, live-streamed his bloody rampage on Facebook after posting links to a 73-page hate-filled “manifesto” on 8chan, a site with millions of anonymous users which has been previously linked to the sharing of child pornography.
The video showed him entering Al Noor Mosque, Christchurch, at 1.30pm in army fatigues and killing 41 worshippers.
Seven people were then shot dead at or near the Masjid Mosque and 48 were injured. A 49th victim died in hospital.
He also appears to have outwitted artificial intelligence tools used to block disturbing content by Facebook and YouTube, which struggled to respond in real time yesterday.
The Facebook video of the killings was viewed 23,000 times in an hour and was only taken down after 239,924 people had seen it.
But 10 hours after the attack the footage was still being shared on YouTube, despite complaints.
Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, said the response was “not good enough” after YouTube, owned by Google, “reviewed” a copy of the video before removing it.
Facebook said it acted quickly to delete Tarrant’s accounts and video after being alerted by police.
YouTube said it was “working vigilantly to remove violent footage.” And a Twitter spokesman said it had “rigorous processes and a dedicated team” for such emergencies.
Theresa May said the Government expected tech firms to “act more quickly to remove terrorist content”.
Her spokesman said: “There should be no safe spaces for terrorists to promote and share their extreme views and radicalise others.”
Mrs May sent New Zealand Britain’s “deepest condolences” adding that targeting people at their place of worship was “despicable”.
She said: “There can be no place in our societies for the vile ideology that drives and incites hatred and fear.”
Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister, described the attacks as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.
Tarrant was arrested along with two other men and a woman. He is understood to have been charged with murder and was due in court today.
Tarrant maximised his impact on social media by flagging up the attack on 8chan half an hour earlier, using internet jokes and the names of online celebrities in his manifesto to promote it.
In naming PewDiePie, a British-based YouTuber with 89.5 million subscribers, and Candace Jones, a US conservative commentator with 1.13 million Twitter followers, he generated publicity from their attempts to dissociate themselves from him.
His “manifesto” claiming “Fortnite trained me to be a killer” was similarly designed to stir reaction from the game’s followers.
It emerged on Friday that three days before the shooting, Tarrant photographed his guns, daubed with far-Right slogans, and posted them on his Twitter account, knowing the images would be dredged up after the attack.