Horrifying footage of the Christchurch mosque murders committed in March 2019 still remains online, despite the efforts of national governments to eliminate the sharing of vision of the tragedy.
Crikey has learned that 18 months on from the events that saw 51 people lose their lives, and the recent jailing of the perpetrator for life, public channels on the messaging service Telegram still provide access to the footage, which was initially livestreamed on Facebook during the terrorist incident.
Facebook may have been working overtime to get rid of copies of the video from its platform since the day of the attacks, but individuals or groups are still finding ways to share footage, images and the perpetrator’s manifesto. Shortly after the attack, New Zealand made it illegal to do so.
One of the Telegram channels was seen to display a copy of the media release issued by former senator Fraser Anning in which he blamed Muslim immigration for being “the real cause of the bloodshed”. Anning was censured by the Australian Senate in April 2019 for the remarks.
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The channels on Telegram that provide access to this material are public. Anybody can download or view the material. No individual has to subscribe to a channel in order to see the content displayed in the thread on a channel.
It is unclear how many private channels or groups may have access to the vision of the terrorist attack given the ease with which posts can be saved to different locations in Telegram.
Since December 2016, Telegram has reported its effectiveness in deleting accounts, channels or bots related to members or supporters of global jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
Telegram reports the removal of these accounts on a daily basis via its ISIS Watch channel. It deactivated 19,635 such accounts in August this year alone.
These efforts were noted by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in a July 2020 report related to the growing use of the platform by right-wing extremists.
“In November 2019, Europol coordinated a joint referral action with Telegram to target channels promoting jihadist material,” the centre observed. “Telegram’s official channel, ISIS Watch, reported that 43,215 terrorist bots and channels were banned during November 2019 (compared to 6,209 in October 2019).
“However, while some channels and groups promoting hateful content may go quiet or lose their administrators, the content can remain dormant, online and accessible, including links and downloads.”