Stop the tweets: Australia commits AU$18m to monitor social media

Australian Attorney-General George Brandis has announced AU$18 million in funding to fight 'terrorist propaganda' on social media sites.

The Australian government will invest close to AU$18 million in monitoring and analysing social media in an effort to combat "terrorist propaganda" being posted on social media sites.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently referred to social media as "electronic graffiti", and Attorney-General George Brandis is now planning to clean it up.

Under the "Combating Terrorist Propaganda in Australia" initiative, the government will establish social media monitoring and analysis to look at the spread of "extremist material" online.

Brandis, who famously said that people "have the right to be a bigot", said the initiative will be targeting groups, such as Islamic State, that post content online "to gain support and sympathy from vulnerable young Australians".

"The government is taking a dynamic approach to its communications to better contest the online environment where terrorists are actively distributing their messages. This will include promoting material online that challenges the claims of terrorists and shares the benefits of Australia's diversity, inclusion, democracy, and social values," Brandis said in a statement.

"The fight against terrorist groups like ISIL is taking place online as they continue to weaponise information and spread their messages of hate and violence through social media. The Combating Terrorist Propaganda in Australia initiative is part of the Australian government's approach to challenging this dangerous propaganda."

It comes as the Australian government is ramping up its national security agenda, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten recently accusing the prime minister of politicising national security by calling on Labor to support legislation that would force telecommunications companies to retain customer data for two years for access by law-enforcement agencies without a warrant.

Abbott again stepped up his call for Labor to pass the legislation, stating that without it, police would not be able to do their jobs.

"There are very few serious crimes that do not require an investigation and analysis of telecommunications data in their resolution, very few crimes that don't require this kind of thing if they're to be properly investigated," he said.

"Without this metadata-retention legislation, our police and security agencies will be quite literally (sic) flying blind. The last thing we want to do is to give an unfair advantage to criminals, and this is why it's critical that the parliament swiftly pass the metadata-retention legislation."