Australian prime minister criticizes TikTok suicide video

FILE - This Feb. 25, 2020, file photo, shows the icon for TikTok in New York. TikTok says it's working to remove videos of a man apparently taking his own life and banning users that keep trying to spread the clips on the wildly popular social media platform, it was reported on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

CANBERRA – Australian regulators have ruled out prosecuting TikTok over an apparent suicide video under tough new laws prohibiting some forms of violent online images, but the prime minister urged social media companies on Wednesday to take more responsibility for offensive content.

The Chinese-owned social media platform says it is working to remove videos of a man apparently taking his own life with a gun and banning users who keep trying to spread the clips through the app.

It’s the latest example of the ongoing struggle by big tech companies to police their platforms for harmful content amid increasing pressure from regulators.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s online watchdog, is taking “strong action” against what he described as a “disgraceful video.”

“Those who run these organizations have a responsibility to those who are watching and particularly when it comes to children,” Morrison said in a video released by his office.

“My message to those social media companies is, yes, your products are changing the world, but with that comes a great responsibility and you need to be accountable and you need to be responsible for making sure that your product does not harm Australians, and my government will be making sure that we do everything to hold you to account for that,” he said.

Australia last year took extraordinary legislative steps to remove violent content from internet platforms.

Social media executives can be imprisoned if their platforms stream real violence under the new laws. The legislation was a response to an Australian gunman who used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live on Facebook as he murdered 51 worshippers in two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.