New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern wants to discuss live-streaming with Facebook after mosque attacks

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meeting with the representatives of the refugee centre during a visit to the Canterbury Refugee Centre in Christchurch, on March 16, 2019.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meeting with the representatives of the refugee centre during a visit to the Canterbury Refugee Centre in Christchurch, on March 16, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

WELLINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday (March 17) Facebook had "further questions to answer" over the live streaming of shootings at two mosques that killed 50 people, as the tech giant said it removed 1.5 million videos globally in the first 24 hours after the attack. 

"Certainly, I have had contact from (Facebook chief operating officer) Sheryl Sandberg. I haven't spoken to her directly but she has reached out, an acknowledgment of what has occurred here in New Zealand," Ms Ardern said a media conference when asked if Facebook should stop live-streaming.

"This is an issue that I will look to be discussing directly with Facebook," added Ms Ardern.

“We did as much as we could to remove, or seek to have removed, some of the footage that was being circulated in the aftermath of this terrorist attack,” she said. “But ultimately it has been up to those platforms to facilitate their removal.

“I do think that there are further questions to be answered,” by the tech giants, Ms Ardern said.

A horrific video shot by the gunmen who carried out the mosque massacre on Friday was live-streamed on Facebook before being removed by the company. 

But the stream, lasting 17 minutes, was shared repeatedly on YouTube and Twitter, and Internet platforms were scrambling to remove videos being reposted of the gruesome scenes. 

In a statement on Sunday, Ms Mia Garlick of Facebook New Zealand vowed to “work around the clock to remove violating content”. 

“In the first 24 hours, we removed 1.5 million videos of the attack globally, of which over 1.2 million were blocked at upload,” the company said.

The company said it is also removing all edited versions of the video that do not show graphic content out of respect for the people affected by the mosque shooting and the concerns of local authorities. 

Ms Ardern was joined by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in expressing doubts that current rules go far enough. Mr Morrison said that social media companies had “cooperated” since the attack. 

“But I sadly have to say that the capacity to actually assist fully is very limited on the technology side.”

He said “assurances were given” that once such content was pulled down, a regime would make sure it did not go back up.

“Clearly, it hasn’t (happened)," he noted.

“So I think there are some very real discussions that have to be had about how these facilities and capabilities, as they exist on social media, can continue to be offered.”