Police have urged the public not to share “extremely distressing” material online in the wake of the New Zealand mosque shootings.
Media publications and social media users across the UK have been widely circulating harrowing footage of the tragic events today.
At least 30 people were killed at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch, at least seven people died inside the suburban Linwood Masjid Mosque, and at least three others died outside the same mosque.
In all, a total of 49 people were killed.
One of the attackers – Brenton Tarrant – appears to have live-streamed the attack on Facebook as he shot victims in a mosque.
The 28-year-old Australian described his anti-immigrant motives in a manifesto.
Police have warned there may be more suspects.
Social media sites and search engines have been implored to do more to stop the spread of the material.
“Our hearts go out to the victims of this terrible tragedy. Shocking, violent and graphic content has no place on our platforms, and is removed as soon as we become aware of it. As with any major tragedy, we will work cooperatively with the authorities,” Google’s spokesperson said.
Twitter said it would proactively work “to remove the video content from the service.”
Reddit said it would remove any content containing links to the video stream.
Facebook said it was working with law enforcement to continually remove the video.
“Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the community affected by this horrendous act. New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we quickly removed both the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video,” Facebook’s spokesperson said.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said one of those arrested was an Australian citizen and described the suspected attacker as an “extremist right-wing violent terrorist”.
Britain’s former top counter-terrorism officer, Sir Mark Rowley, blamed social media and some politicians for driving the divisions which lead to hate crime.
Sir Mark, who led the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terror unit until last year, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think social media is a very big problem in this environment. Social media companies are monetising our attention.
“They do that by pushing us towards the most titillating, bizarre, unusual and in some cases extreme material. That has helped this sort of ideology, these conspiracy theories both on the Islamist side of the problem and on the extreme right-wing side.
“They help them propagate and grow and it helps people form cells and networks of like-minded individuals.
“Sometimes, frankly, I think it’s aggravated by mainstream politicians, small numbers of whom in Western countries now are more populist and make sometimes intolerant rhetorical statements.”
Sir Mark said that Muslim communities in the UK “do suffer from a lot of prejudice”, adding: “Do we need to be alive to the threat to Muslims? Yes, we absolutely do.”