Australia's 'Abhorrent Violent Material' Law: Shouting 'Nerd Harder' and Drowning Out Speech

94 Australian Law Journal 41 (2020)

20 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2019 Last revised: 10 Aug 2021

See all articles by Evelyn Douek

Evelyn Douek

Harvard University, Law School

Date Written: August 26, 2019


In the wake of the Christchurch Massacre, the Australian government passed the Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019 (“the AVM Act”) with essentially no debate or consultation. Creating new criminal offences for social media and hosting companies that fail to move certain violent content “expeditiously”, the legislation treats the matter of the viral spread of violent content online as a simple problem that could be solved by technology companies if they were only sufficiently motivated. But the problem is not simple, and the AVM Act instead creates incentives for tech companies to over-censor in order to avoid the threat of liability while failing to address the many deficits that currently exist in online content moderation and associated regulation.

Keywords: abhorrent violent material; social media; content moderation; free speech; intermediary liability

Suggested Citation

Douek, Evelyn, Australia's 'Abhorrent Violent Material' Law: Shouting 'Nerd Harder' and Drowning Out Speech (August 26, 2019). 94 Australian Law Journal 41 (2020), Available at SSRN:

Evelyn Douek (Contact Author)

Harvard University, Law School ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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