The industry pledge was announced alongside the Christchurch Call to Action, a memorandum signed by more than a dozen countries including Australia and New Zealand but not the United States.
Mr Hanson said there were “more incentives” for tech platforms to push for globally consistent approaches, with governments across the world bringing in different legislation to deal with social media and digital technology.
“It’s a push back against some of the kneejerk reactions we’ve seen in Australia with the abhorrent content law and is a pointer to different ways of dealing with it,” he said.
After the Christchurch attacks, the Australian government introduced harsh new penalties threatening prison time for executives and billions of dollars in fines should social media companies not remove objectionable content quickly enough. Some of the platforms, such as Facebook, have argued for globally consistent rules for their businesses.
Bond University co-director of the Centre for Commercial Law Dan Svantesson agreed there had been “aggressive attempts at regulation, sometimes regulations that are unrealistic for the companies to comply with” that would have encouraged the companies to look for other options.
“This might be the start of a new era as to how we approach international regulation, how companies relate to government and how governments relate to companies. And a positive one,” Dr Svantesson said.
“It will be interesting to see the extent to which these initiatives can grow. At the moment it’s all Western companies, which might be natural at this stage but it needs to be expanded.”
But he said some parts of the policy were “aspirational” with more detail needed to see how significant the promises would be. “It’s a good start but it is just that – a start.”
University of NSW professor of artificial intelligence Toby Walsh described the agreement as “surprisingly light on detail”.
“They can see the writing on the wall,” he said about the companies’ willingness to cooperate with global authorities.
He did not have a “huge degree of confidence” in any self-regulation, instead supporting a more aggressive approach from governments.
“I think we’re discovering that there are just too many perverse business incentives for them to attract peoples’ eyeballs, which will not necessarily result in good political discourse,” he said.
University of Sydney associate professor Tim Dwyer said it was a “positive step in the right direction to have this kind of multi-stakeholder dialogue” while University of Technology Sydney senior lecturer in digital and social media Amelia Johns agreed it was a good step but said it could raise concerns about privacy and control.
“The downsides of this pledge is maybe it increases capacity for censoring content online and potential breaches of consumer privacy,” Dr Johns said.
Jennifer Duke is a media and telecommunications journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.