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Man charged for sharing New Zealand shooting video — could this happen in Canada?

ABOVE: New Zealand prime minister says they've attempted to remove video of mosque shootings.

New Zealand police on Monday said any possession or sharing of a video showing the fatal terrorist attack against two mosques in Christchurch has been classed as an offence.

But what about in Canada?

READ MORE: New Zealand police arrest man over video offences, remind public not to share mosque shooting footage

During the attack that killed 50 people on March 15, the shooter live-streamed the massacre on Facebook for about 17 minutes using a head-mounted camera until police told the social media company to remove the video.

Canadian human rights lawyer Richard Warman said the legality of sharing the video in Canada depends if the shooting suspect was spouting hate speech in the video.

“If he is talking about what he is doing in a positive way … if he is demonizing a victim or degrading them, then I think it then it’s against [Canada’s] criminal code,” he said.

WATCH: The role of social media in Christchurch shootings

Role of social media in Christchurch shootings
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The 28-year-old man charged in the murders of 50 people also appeared to have posted a manifesto filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric to his social media account before he attacked the mosques.

“Sharing the [shooter’s] manifesto online is absolutely against the criminal code,” Warman said.

On Monday, Hamilton police said they were investigating after a Canadian far-right website reposted the manifesto allegedly written by the terrorist behind the mosque attacks.

READ MORE: Police investigating after Canadian far-right website reposts New Zealand terrorist’s manifesto

Canadian law prohibits the wilful promotion of hatred against identifiable groups. A conviction carries a possible two-year sentence.

New Zealand’s ban on sharing the video comes after an 18-year-old man, who has not been named by police, was denied bail in court Monday after he was charged with distributing a live stream of the mass shooting.

The man was charged under the country’s Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act, which states it is an offence to possess “an objectionable publication.” This is when a publication depicts matters such as sex, crime, cruelty or violence, and is likely to be harmful to the public.

READ MORE: Turkey’s President Erdogan criticized for showing New Zealand shooting video at political rallies

After the attack, the video was shared on Twitter, YouTube, Whatsapp, Instagram and Reddit. The social media platforms took steps in the hours after the attack to remove copies of the video.

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Reddit banned two channels that showed the video, saying it violated its policies by “glorifying or encouraging violence.” Facebook said it deleted 1.5 million videos of the shooting in the first 24 hours following the attacks.

Facebook told Global News it is continuing “to work around the clock to remove violating content using a combination of technology and people. Out of respect for the people affected by this tragedy and the concerns of local authorities, we’re also removing all edited versions of the video that do not show graphic content.”

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‘The RCMP must immediately open an investigation’

Daniel Bernhard, executive director of the journalism watchdog group FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting, believes the live broadcast of the massacre in New Zealand is against Canada’s criminal code.

The advocacy group has even called on the RCMP to open an investigation into whether Facebook and YouTube’s broadcast of the attack constitutes a criminal offence in Canada.

READ MORE: Alberta creating provincial unit to fight hate crimes and extremism

Section 319(2) of the Criminal Code states: “Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.”

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Global News reached out to the RCMP for comment about the legality of sharing the video of the massacre online, but they did not get back at the time of publication.

Bernhard said the fact that Facebook live-streamed New Zealand shooting video in front of tens of million Canadians is “the kind of behaviours that the criminal code explicitly prohibits.”

“These guys live broadcasted a mass murder. That is crazy,” Bernhard said. “The RCMP must immediately open an investigation and should look into whether this is communicating hate speech and whether this contravened Canada’s criminal code.”

WATCH: Pressure on social media companies to crack down on hate

Pressure on social media companies to crack down on hate
Pressure on social media companies to crack down on hate

Bernhard said he also believes it should also be an offence if an individual shares the video, but added it’s up to the RCMP to decide this.

“The internet and Facebook are not the same thing. What people put on their own website and the dark net are their own responsibly, but Facebook makes billions of dollars pushing its algorithm,” he said.

Warman agreed, saying posting a hateful message on a social media website falls onto the responsibility of the publisher, not the individuals using the services.

“If there were aware of the video and did not take steps to remove it then that would support criminal liability,” he explained. “But they will say ‘we took immediate steps to do everything possible.'”

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READ MORE: Why it’s so hard to stop online hate before it becomes real-life violence

But the bigger question, he said, is how the video was able to stream in the first place.

He said Facebook uses a tool (hash values) to reduce the availability of child sexual abuse images and video — and the same should be done to prevent hate speech from spreading.

“They have indicated they were using hash values to try and remove the video after the shooting. It’s evidence that it is technologically possible and the same thing should be used to stop hate propaganda that inspires a massacre,” he said.

— With files from Reuters 

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