We're asking the wrong questions of YouTube and Facebook after New Zealand

It's time for a real conversation about the infrastructure and incentives that Big Tech provides far-right extremists.

A makeshift memorial near the Al Noor Mosque for victims of last Friday's mass shooting in Christchurch. The horror of the New Zealand massacre should be a wake-up call for Big Tech and an occasion to interrogate the architecture of social networks t
A makeshift memorial near the Al Noor Mosque for victims of last Friday's mass shooting in Christchurch. The horror of the New Zealand massacre should be a wake-up call for Big Tech and an occasion to interrogate the architecture of social networks that incentivise and reward the creation of extremist communities and content.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Late last Saturday, Facebook shared some dizzying statistics that begin to illustrate the scale of the online impact of the New Zealand massacre as the gunman's video spread across social media.

According to the social network, the graphic, high-definition video of the attack was uploaded by users 1.5 million times in the first 24 hours. Of those 1.5 million copies of the video, Facebook's automatic detection systems automatically blocked 1.2 million. That left roughly 300,000 copies ricocheting around the platform to be viewed, liked, shared and commented on by Facebook's more than two billion users.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2019, with the headline 'We're asking the wrong questions of YouTube and Facebook after NZ'. Subscribe